Here it goes.
Dark was the night and all was still save the ………….oh! What the hell. I have no clue. I was fast asleep. And past midnight into my sleep numbed brain floated the persistent, irritating ring of my blasted cell phone. I reached my hand out and was about to be rather curt with the caller when a man’s soft whisper came through.
Now I am not accustomed to receiving calls at midnight. I am definitely not accustomed to men cooing to me softly at midnight (or at any other time I might add).
But my mild state of confusion changed when I could hear the caller. “Gautam” it said, “I am X from Flat 101. There is a gang of robbers on my terrace and my family and I have locked ourselves up in one of the rooms. What do you think we should do? What can you do?”
When I heard those words I, for a person of my age and fitness level, acted with reckless courage. And displaying acrobatic skills I did not know I possessed was under the bed in a jiffy. I do not know what the existing world record for getting under a bed from on it is but I am sure I lowered it a few notches.
I also shut off all lines of communication. Lest there be another telephone call.
Problems however persisted. My trip under the bed turned out to be a congregation/communion with an assortment of old newspapers, used envelopes, dust balls, a sock, an apple core and other such items necessarily found (according to the latest Municipal rules) underneath beds in a bachelor pad.
Prompted by this and to a smaller extent by the fact that there already appeared to be a smallish, noisy crowd of do-gooders who had assembled to rescue the Xs, I got out from under the bed and after securely locking my flat walked down.
As I walked down I saw that the junta was clustered around the main door which was to be opened by X. As we heard X’s footsteps quite a few of us, with an ill assumed ease, tried to melt into the background or at the very least behind one's fellow rescuer.
Meaning, the most daring of us peeped into the house and then tip toed in. With the knowledge by and by that no one was around we decided to calm the nerves of the children and a wide eyed Mrs. X.
P.G. Wodehouse had once famously remarked that milkmen as a species are the least marrying sort as they see women too early in the morning. I am now convinced that brave rescuers, like all of us, who see women at midnight don’t fare much better. Anyway I digress.
All of us then assembled on their terrace and speculated on the route taken by the desperadoes to escape.
At this critical juncture appeared good old S, their neighbour who was clearly surprised by the commotion. When told of the reason he was even more surprised. Pointing out that he was on his terrace not 10 minutes ago removing clothes off his clothes line. I was beginning to put 2 and 2 together but decided to ignore the old man.
After a few minutes all of us dutifully trooped out.
When I reached home I peeped out of my window and found the Ss and the Xs exchanging a few embarrassed laughs.
A recent rather novel idea of the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation to install street lights had meant that when dear Mr. S was picking his clothes off the clothes line (at midnight, I might point out) he had perforce to walk up and down the side of his terrace. As a result of this, the shadows created by the street lights fell on the Xs window and made them feel that there was this huge gang out loose on their terrace.
Ah! Well. I had a good laugh too. But talk of bad timing. I came to know of the Mr. S angle barely minutes after I had breathlessly SMSed a friend telling her of my “heroics” and promising to reveal all when we met. Tch tch.
That's the way the cookie crumbles.