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Where Peacocks Fly-9

by Prema Sastri
(Bangalore, India)

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Chapter 9

Lunch was a quiet meal. Only Betty tried to enliven the table with conversation. Meera made polite replies. Gregory was in a hurry to get back to the embassy. Chandan Lal was engrossed in making sure that he got second helpings of everything. It was a pity thought Meera as Betty had taken great trouble in ordering the meal. She had remembered that Meera was a vegetarian and prepared a delicious dish of baked macaroni before setting out. In addition there was tempting vegetable stew and hot puris along with an American cold salad. There was chilled fruit and cream for dessert which Meera refused opting for black coffee. She knew that Gregory was eager to get back to work and she found herself wondering whether she had locked her front door and if the clothes were safe on the clothesline. She and Greg got up as Chandan Lal was.

“Thank you for the lunch, Betty. I’ll do what I can for the pickle stall” said Meera as Gregory opened the car door for her. They were soon speeding out of Vasant Vihar.

“You know,” said Gregory as he turned a corner, “that you have a brilliant husband. I was at conference with him the other day. It was amazing to see how he had facts and figures all ready to reel out. He never consulted a piece of paper, but he had every statistic right. He speaks very well too. I am told he is an authority on defence production, perhaps the best in your country. I hear he has been earmarked for the next promotion. You must be very proud of him.”

“He works very hard.”

“Good for him. I’m afraid most of the Indians I met have very little interest in their work. Most of them are only looking for a trip abroad. I know that Ramaswmy turned down an invitation to attend an international conference in Geneva as a major defence production unit was being inaugurated at the time. I have the greatest respect for his integrity.”

They had turned into Moti Bagh and were soon in the quadrangle of Meera’s flat. Gregory opened the door for her. “Don’t you girls work yourselves too hard over this bazaar,’ he smiled. “Betty takes things so seriously she will have a nervous breakdown, if there is a single cookie left unsold. Take it easy.”

“I will.” Meera promised. With another smile and wave of his hand, Gregory was soon off. Meera was turning the key in the lock when she saw Shankaran coming out from the neighbour’s house. His eyes were red and swollen. He sneezed.

“I wasn’t feeling too well. I thought I had better come home.” Meera felt his forehead. It was burning.

“Get into bed quickly,” she said when they were in. “I’ll take your temperature. The thermometer showed a hundred and four degrees. She felt Shankaran’s pulse. It was rapid and a rasping sound came from his throat. Meera decided to ring up Ramaswamy. It was some time before she got him on the line.

“Damn fool” said Ramaswamy when she told him what had happened. “It’s his own fault for going out like that. I don’t think I can get off now. The secretary of defence production wants me to discuss a report with him in half an hour. It will be most discourteous to let him down.”

“Can’t you tell him there is an emergency?”

“I don’t think it is as bad as all that. He must have caught a chill. A day in bed will soon cure him. Why don’t you call an auto and take him to the central health service doctor.”

“I am sure he will get worse if I take him any distance in an autorickshaw. All that waiting around will exhaust him. You know how long it takes a government doctor to attend on a patient.”

“There’s nothing I can do about it now. I’ll see what I can do when I get home. I don’t think I’ll be free before six this evening. I’ll tell my P.A. where he can contact me. Ring me if there is anything serious.” He rang off.

Meera sat down still holding the telephone in her hand. What should she do now. Her father’s family physician was far away in Connaught Place. He was getting too old for active practice and took on only a few patients. They lived in a government colony and there was no doctor practicing in their area. Suddenly she remembered there were new occupants in the services flat opposite them. Her neighbour had told her it was an Air Force doctor’s family. She put down the phone, made Shankaran as comfortable as she could, and rang the bell of Mrs. Lal’s house.

“Yes,” said Mrs. Lal in answer to her query. He is an Air Force doctor, a Wing Commander Menon. Mrs. Menon came over a few days ago to enquire about getting a servant. I found her one and also sent her my newspaper man. I am sure her husband will be willing to attend to Shankaran. “I think Wing Commander Menon will be home. I’ll come with you, if you like.”

........... To be continued ...

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May 03, 2011
by: Tanuja Chatterjee

I agree with Vimaladi. You are a good story teller.Change of scenes changes the mood and cuts through monotony.Enjoyed your work till now. What next then!

Apr 18, 2011
by: vimala ramu

The tight narration continues to be interesting, Prema.

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