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Where Peacocks Fly-17

by Prema Sastri

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Sales on Meera’s counter were slow. Occasionally an older man or woman would stop and buy a bottle. The cookies, cakes, jam jars and chocolates had a brisk turnover. Nita did not make any effort to sell her stuff. Sankaran and Mangalam turned up in the evening. They stopped cursorily at the stall, and went on to the games of fortune. Wing Commander Menon came shortly afterwards.

“I believe you are in a pickle” He laughed at his own joke.
“Mohini told me of the effort you have put into your project. I’ll buy a couple of bottles.” He looked around. “Prawn pickles, Kerala style. That’s for me.” He selected the two bottles donated by his wife. Meera put them in a paper bag and gave them to him.

“They will taste exactly like what your mother or mother-in-law prepares.”

“Thank you! I have to make some purchases at the garment stall, or Mohini will never speak to me again.” He wandered off.

Mr Kapadia came out of the crowd. He greeted Meera and went up to Nita. He bought her entire stock. Meera’s cardboard box came in handy for the bulk purchase. Nita excused herself and went off with him.

Betty came to her side. “That was quick work. Most of our stock has been sold. I’ll buy some of yours, if there is any left.”

There were thirty bottles still to go. Meera despaired of selling them. By this time most of the food stalls were empty. Disappointed stragglers saw her wares and bought a bottle here and there. Finally, there were five bottles left. Meera eyed them disconsolately. A familiar voice fell on her ears.

“Can I buy those bottles?”

She looked up into Capt. Khanna’s twinkling eyes.

“What will you do with them?”

“That’s my problem. Hand them over, please.”

The bottles were packed into a paper bag and given to the new owner.

“Now that you are free why don’t you join me for some tea? I’m hungry.”

Meera realized she was starving. She had not eaten all day. “I will, but I must tell Betty.” Betty was at the back of the tent packing up with the help of a tall blonde woman.

“This is Gloria. She works in Gregory’s office. He asked her to give me a hand.” Meera and Gloria smiled at one another. Betty waved a greeting at Capt. Khanna.“I met him at your place. Run along. You have done more than your share. Gloria and I will wind up.”

Capt. Khanna was waiting for her.

“There are a couple of tea places open. Come along before they close.”

Meera hurried her steps. They came to a place
which had a signboard saying, “Tea”.

Capt. Khanna commandeered two chairs.

“Wait here. I’ll be back.” He returned bearing a tray with teacups and a plate with sandwiches and small cakes. “This is all that remains. I had to persuade the volunteer to make fresh sandwiches. Drink up your tea and eat. You look as if you could do with some food.” He pushed the tray towards her.

Meera helped herself to a tomato sandwich.

“There are lots of sandwiches here. Your powers of persuasion must be good.”

“I don’t think so. I have not been able to persuade you to meet me.”

“I am meeting you now.”

“True! I have something to tell you.”

“I know what it is. You got married.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“I’m married already.”

“Oh!” Meera felt as if a snake had coiled itself inside her stomach.

“I wanted to tell you that I’ve been posted to Army Head Quarters, Delhi. I’ve been allotted a flat in Motibagh, near yours.”

“Good! I hope you will bring your wife over some time.”

“I will; as soon as we are settled in. Where are my friends, Sankaran and Mangalam? I’m missing them.”

“They’re around somewhere. They should be here very soon.”

A few minutes later the children descended on them.

“Mummy, we searched for you everywhere.” They turned their attention to Capt. Khanna.

“Tell us your latest adventures in the field area. I bet you killed many enemy soldiers.” Mangalam looked thrilled.

“I didn’t kill anyone. I did spend two years near the Siachin Glacier. Cold and snow were the enemies. Crossing rope bridges was the real danger. Lack of sleep and keeping alert all the time was the biggest threat. Often, we saw enemy formations on the other side. There was a lot of sniping. Nothing more. Frequently, we heard them singing – songs from Indian cinema. I felt sorry to think of them as enemies.”

Sankaran tossed his head. “Not enemies, but fools serving the establishment, as you are.”

“Don’t be rude,” cut in Meera. “Capt. Khanna is risking his life for the country. Respect that.”

“Rakesh is the name. Thank you for your kind words. Most of the time I agree with Sankaran.”

“I must catch up with Mohini Menon. She will be waiting for me.”

“Go ahead. I”ll see your kids home. I live near you. Goodbye.”

Meera went to Mohini’s stall. She was ready to leave. Wing Commander Menon drove them home. Under his arm was the T-shirt donated by Meera.

Mohini and Meera smiled. It had been a good sale. Wing Commander Menon had certainly played his part.

To be continued....

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Oct 17, 2011
chapter 18
by: isabel

Just finished reading C-18 and looking forward to C-19

Was thinking deeply... how hard and traumatic for a woman to marry someone they don't know. I just hope that this does not happen often in real life.

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