THE SHINE JOURNAL

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Her Son Is Late

 

by

 

Lalitha Balasubramanian

 

 

 

 

Lata was anxious. She walked up and down the corridor waiting for her son to return home from school.

 

Why is he late? She peered out into the road. Raja was usually home before 3 and it was already half past. What could have happened to him?

 

“Anything wrong Aunty?” asked Bunty, her neighbour’s son.

 

“Raja has still not come home Bunty,” she replied.

 

“Don’t worry Aunty. He will be home soon. Anyway he catches the school bus so why are you so worried?”

 

That’s true. But why so late? It is almost 3:45 now,” she spoke, a tremble in her voice.

 

Lata’s mind was wandering along all the unnecessary trails of thought. Her heartbeats quickened as she remembered seeing the news on the television two weeks back that cautioned parents to accompany their children to and from school.

 

The widely reported kidnapping of the small child of a top business magnate had led to waves of worry among many the parents. That particular child had been found safe and sound and had been left in the common children’s play area to be retrieved by the police and returned to his parents. The kidnapper was still at large.

 

“I should have gone to pick him up," she ranted in panic.

 

"What if something like that has happened to my Raja? Oh, my God. What do I do now?"

 

She dialed her husband’s cell number who was away on a business tour. Weeping uncontrollably, she told him of Raja not returning from school. Her husband tried to calm her and said, “Why don’t you go and find out if he is inside the school? Maybe he had some extra curricular activity, which he must not have told you about.”

 

Lata murmured agreement and grabbing the house keys, ran towards the road. On the way she yelled to Bunty to look out for Raja in case he returned when she was not there. Bunty nodded as Lata hailed an auto rickshaw and urged the driver to take her as quickly as possible to the school.

 

The watchman at the gate smiled welcomingly at her but was astonished that she did not even spare a glance for him. She half walked, half ran to the cabin of the Principal. Knocking the door, she walked in without even waiting for a reply.  Lata poured out her anxiety tripping over the words as she explained that her son Raja had not yet come home.

 

Looking at her dishevelled state, Mrs. Khanna immediately called for the Raja’s teacher. The teacher said that all the students had already left for home as usual and that there was no extra curricular activity slated for the day.

 

Lata was terrified. Now what could she do? Where could she go searching for her son? The Principal reassured her saying that since he was taking the bus nothing could have happened to him. She also asked Lata to ring up his classmates and enquire whether they had seen him.

 

Lata pounced on the idea; anything to find information about her beloved son. She quickly called all of his friends. The numbers were always registered in her cell’s memory. Her panic level rose as one by one the children said that they had not seen Raja after school.

    

 Just then Suma, another child’s mother ran in. She was almost in tears.

 

“Madam, my son Venki has not come home yet,” she sobbed.

 

Mrs Khanna became slightly apprehensive. “Were they both travelling on the same bus?” she asked the class teacher.

 

“Yes Madam,” said Pooja.

 

By then the phone started ringing. Mrs. Khanna picked it up. As soon as she put the phone down another call came. After so many calls came in, Mrs. Khanna began slowly expressing fear. Lata and Suma looked at her expectantly with mounting dread in their hearts.

 

“Pooja, it seems that none of the students have reached their homes till 4 0’clock,” she exclaimed to the class teacher.

 

“Madam, shall we complain to the Police?” asked Pooja.

 

“Maybe we should,” said Mrs Khanna.

 

 

Suddenly it occurred to Lata that she could contact Arun who travelled in the same bus as Raja. She remembered Arun mentioning that he had been given a mobile phone by his father as the boy had no mother and if necessity arose his father could be contacted by him. The school had banned mobile phones. But realizing the situation the boy was in, an exception had been made. He was a senior, but he loved Raja like a brother and they were both members of the school’s cricket team. She quickly dialed Arun’s cell number.

 

“Arun, I have not been able to trace Raja anywhere,” she stammered. “He had not reached home even when it was half past three. And there is no extra class at school. I am speaking from the Principal’s cabin.”

 

“Don’t worry Aunty,” Arun said calmly. “Raja came with us on the school bus and was dropped just opposite your house.”

 

“When?” asked Lata.

 

“About half an hour ago” said Arun. “Maybe you just missed him. We got caught in a traffic jam and when the vehicles started moving, our bus developed a snag. The driver called for the other school bus to take us home. So we were delayed for an hour almost.’

 

‘Thank you Arun”, she said with relief as she also thanked her stars that she had remembered to tell Bunty to look out for Raja in her absence. She turned to Suma and Mrs. Khanna. “They are safe,” she announced brightly. Explaining what had transpired in a few words, she walked out of the cabin quickly.

 

Catching an auto rickshaw again, she went back home. There were tears of joy in her eyes as she saw Bunty holding Arun by his hand waiting for her to return.

 

“Thanks a lot Bunty!” she shouted as she drew Arun into the safety of her arms. 

 

 

 

 

L. BALASUBRAMANIAN shares...

L. Balasubramanian is a published writer from India with features and fiction published in various women's magazines.  See her previous work on SHINE! here. Her email address is emaillb55@rediffmail.com.

MOTIVATION:

 "This came from successive newspaper reports that kids are being abducted and sometimes found safe but sometimes  killed brutally. This has resulted in mothers being more and more worried about their school going children."