Prank of the missing, muddled baggage

 As she pushed the last piece of luggage under the seat, she clearly remembered her mother’s words. “Try not to talk about the wedding. It can attract the attention of thieves to the ornaments and gifts in your baggage.”

Rashi was travelling to Mysore to attend her cousin’s wedding. With her were Aditi, her sister, and Pushpa, a close friend of her mother’s. She quickly glanced up and down the train’s compartment to see if she might have been overheard. There were just two other men in her coupe, a group of middle-aged couples in the next, and overall there seemed to be very few passengers in the bogie.

Somewhat pacified, Rashi settled down by the window. The train soon pulled out of the station. Rashi decided to let go of her anxiety and look forward to the fun-filled weekend. What excited her most was that her cousin’s wedding was coinciding with her birthday just two days away, on April 3.

Quaint settlements chugged by as the train picked up speed. Rashi’s thoughts were suddenly jolted to the map work she had to turn in before school closed for summer. Had she packed the maps and other things she would need?

Rashi immediately bent over to check her airbag. She could see their maroon suitcase, the jute bag brimming with snacks, but not her red airbag. She craned her neck to get a better view of the other end of the seat. The airbag was not there either. She turned her attention to the opposite seat where the men sat cross-legged. Two suitcases filled up the space; there was nothing more.

 “Aditi, where did you keep my airbag?” asked Rashi.
“Below the seat, with the rest of our baggage,” replied Aditi, looking up from her magazine.

“It’s not there.”

Annoyed, Aditi looked under their seat, then anxiously below the other berths as well. She even moved the men’s suitcases to see if the airbag had slid over to their side.
It was then that the commotion started.

The younger of the two men sprang from the seat.

“Aditi, this man is hiding my airbag behind his back!” shouted Rashi.

“So, grab him!” yelled Aditi. Pushpa Aunty rolled up Aditi’s magazine and began to thrash the escaping man. Taking advantage of the melee, the older man squeezed out into the aisle, snatching the airbag on his way out.

The younger man scrambled to the top berth and lay low.
Rashi, Aditi and Pushpa Aunty looked at the scene in shocked amazement. None of their fellow passengers seemed to have noticed the action that was taking place right under their noses.

“Thief! Thief!” yelled Rashi. Nobody stirred.

Fear and worry gripped Rashi. Her cries became hoarse. She could hear the thieves laughing, which strangely enough turned into girlish giggles. “Hey Rashi,” floated a voice,  jolting her out of her sleep.

“We’ve travelled barely 15 minutes, and you’ve already started dreaming?” laughed Aditi. “You should have heard yourself, whimpering about thieves.”

Rashi waited for her thoughts to clear. She realised that the gentle rocking movement of the train and watching the settlements move by endlessly must have lulled her to sleep. All the same, she wanted to check on her airbag.

Rashi peered under her seat and breathed a sigh of relief. Her airbag was there all right. She unzipped the bag and a wave of apprehension choked her.

She had packed the bag to bursting capacity, but now just a few clothes lay inside in complete disarray! Her richly embroidered salwar suits and jewellery sets were missing. She felt the terror of her dream returning, but this was real.

Rashi’s first reaction was to look at the two men in front of her. They were slouched on the seat, their eyes shut.

Rashi nudged Pushpa Aunty and Aditi, and showed them the near-empty airbag. “I’ve been robbed!”

“Don’t worry Rashi,” said Pushpa Aunty. “Thieves can be really slick.”

Aditi hugged her sister comfortingly. “You should have heeded Ma’s instructions about refraining from wedding talk.”

Rashi’s face fell.

But Aditi’s little speech was not over yet. “Otherwise, people around you can get inspired to play pranks, especially if it is the first of April!”

Amid squeals of laughter, Aditi asked Rashi to peep inside the jute bag. The snacks had been moved to the top berth and replaced with her clothes, jewellery sets, and maps.
“Happy April Fool’s Day, Rashi,” said Aditi, tears of laughter streaming down her face.
In her excitement of attending the wedding, Rashi had completely forgotten about April Fool’s Day.

She looked miffed for having fallen for Aditi’s prank, but as the train rolled on, the humour of the whole episode started to sink in and Rashi too burst into uncontrollable giggles. She was going to remember this prank and this trip for a very long time.

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