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This happened last week. I was resting in the afternoon as I was suffering from throat infection. My 4-yr old was sleeping next to me and my husband K was working from home in order to give me support. I woke up around 4.45 and asked him what he gave our daughter V for snacks. He said she was yet to come from school. That's it. I leaped out pretty fast from the bed for a sick woman and stared again at the clock to ensure it was 4.45 and not 3.45 ! I checked the hall and the other rooms to ensure father-daughter were not playing hide & seek and then it dawned on me that my daughter was not home yet.
I first called my friend to check if her daughter (who is in the same class as V) had reached home. Her mobile was not reachable and her landline kept ringing. By this time K was on his way to the bus pick-up point (which is inside our colony) to find out what was happening. I called two more of our friends' landline and when no-one answered, my mind started working overtime. I called the school transport who informed the buses started 15-20 mins late due to rains. Still, it was past 5 PM which meant the delay of nearly 40 mins should have covered a 20 mins delayed start. By this time, my mind very clearly started imagining one nightmare after another and with K confirming that the bus-stop was empty, I decided that my daughter was either kidnapped or she had fallen down badly somewhere on the way and was crying for help.
That's when madam walked in cool as a cucumber and informed she was hungry and asked what's for snacks. I hugged her and informed K to come back home. When I asked her what happened, she told she accompanied her friend and her mom (this was the friend I had first called) to the supermarket inside our complex. The two girls had been chatting while the mom had shopped and then trotted back home slowly. I was seriously controlling the rising fury telling myself that this was much better than any of the above imagined option. I hotly asked if she even realised that she was more than 40 minutes late and I was about to call the police. That's when it dawned on her that she had caused some distress to her folks and her half-shrug, half-blank look indicated if I was crazy enough to not think she would have gone to the supermarket. I let K deal with her as I was too angry and busy thanking all the Gods and Goddesses for her safe return.
As my pulse returned to normal, I was triggered by a sudden childhood memory. I was maybe 10 or 11 years at that time. I was as usual cycling around my neighbourhood when I noticed a man carrying a puppy inside a house (this house was in the street next to us). I boldly went up and asked if I could see the puppy and he showed me a place inside the house to park my cycle. As he took me to the garage I saw the loveliest sight ever in my life ! Five three-week old German Shepherd puppies extremely cute and playful beside their mother who did not mind me petting the babies. That was not all. There was also a friendly black Labrador tied up some distance away. As I sat in that heaven petting one by one each of the five puppies and then the mommy and then the black Lab, my family were hunting the neighbourhood for me. I guess I lost track of time and it was getting dark by then. I think it was my dad's intuition; he was passing by that street that moment and maybe he heard my voice asking the caretaker some question, but he looked into the house and found me there surrounded by doggies. He calmly asked if I knew how late it was and I said my byes and left the place. I entered my house to find my mom in tears and my brother consoling her. She had even spoken to the shopkeepers in the main road to check if I had been in some kind of accident. I got one of the worst scolding ever and mom was innovating some new punishments. I was totally sulking as I sat gawking at my mother's imagination and day-dreaming about the puppies.
Back to the present. My anger vanished and I sat with V explaining to her what went on in my mind in those agonising 20 minutes. I assured her that all I expected was a call (every block has an internal extension) to inform me of her whereabouts and I would have been happy. As she digested this information, claimed she understood my worry and promised to never repeat it, I could only hope karma would be kinder and forget my other 'adventures'. Sigh !! Is that even fair to expect ?
Image courtesy: Karmanuts.com