When Grandpa went missing

Moreover, with his grandma out of town, what could possibly be keeping him away from his weekend routine? Ma had not taken the absence seriously.

The room, especially readied for Nanaji, looked dreary with its unruffled bedsheets and undisplaced bathroom slippers. To further worsen his anxiety, Anand could not even reach him. Nanaji’s telephone line beeped lifelessly and the elderly man firmly believed that owning a cell phone would only complicate his life.

Anand decided to cycle down to his grandfather’s home; it was only 3km away. The idea lifted his spirits. It was better to do something about a problem rather than sit and brood about it!

Just as he was leaving, a voice floated through the bedroom door. “Where’s Nanaji?”

It was Surbhi, his neighbour and best friend. She never failed to self-invite herself every weekend, eager to take a share of Nanaji’s box of chocolates.

“He hasn’t come this weekend,” replied Anand. “And I haven’t been able to call him either. I was planning to ride down to his place for a visit.”

Surbhi jumped at the idea. The two children cycled their way to Nanaji’s home. Anand rang the doorbell long and hard.  The chimes echoed inside, but the door remained closed.

“Let’s go around the house and see if he’s in the vegetable garden,” suggested Surbhi. They went over to the back, but he was not there either.

Anand climbed over the balcony wall and peered in through the closed windows. With the bright outdoor sunlight, it was impossible to see anything within. Anand tapped the windows several times with no response.

“Do you think he might be sleeping?” asked Surbhi.

“At 11 o’clock in the morning? Very unlikely,” replied Anand. A sudden flapping sound made him jump. His first thought was of a masked intruder lurking behind the closed windows hiding in the curtain folds. Anand tapped again, this time a little harder. There was a brief scratching sound and all was silent once more.

“Nanaji’s house suddenly feels very creepy,” whispered Surbhi. “And don’t tell me it’s just the wind.”

“But something is definitely wrong,” said Anand, trying not to show how distraught he felt. “I have a good mind to bring the neighbours out. The grown-ups might be able to help.”

“Just knock one last time at the front door, then we’ll do just that,” suggested Surbhi. Anand’s final knock proved just as fruitless. Without wasting more time, he rang the doorbells of a few neighbours and explained the worrying situation to them. Very soon, seven grown-ups crowded onto Nanaji’s front porch. They decided to break open the door. Two men positioned themselves a few feet away from the door. “1…2…3…,” they murmured purposefully to time their hit.

No sooner had they taken the first step did the window adjoining the door slam open. “Stop, before you bring my house down!” It was Anand’s grandfather.

Anand looked speechlessly from his Nanaji to Surbhi and to the crowd outside the door, feeling extremely foolish. The neighbours stood transfixed, their expressions changing from surprise to annoyance and anger.

“Nanaji, I’ve been so worried,” Anand cried finally.

“You’ve never missed a weekend trip home, your phone is dead. I’ve been tapping and knocking at your windows for over 15 minutes, with no response. And then there were peculiar flapping and scratching sounds, as if there might be a robber inside.”

“Ah, what a lot of coincidences,” murmured Nanaji.

“Children, you come in,” said the elderly man firmly. Then turning to the crowd he apologised humbly for all the trouble that his grandson had caused, feeling grateful for their concern at the same time.

“There is only answer to all your questions,” whispered Nanaji. “Walk behind me, very slowly. And don’t make any sudden or sharp sounds.”

Intrigued, Anand and Surbhi followed Nanaji into the bedroom. To the side that faced the vegetable garden against the curtained windows sat a big carton atop a writing table.

In it was a pigeon, its right leg tied to a stick. Surbhi reached out her hand and touched
it.

“This pigeon was in an accident, isn’t it, Nanaji? And you have been looking after it all these days.”

Nanaji nodded. “Yes dear. She was hit by a careless car-driver last Monday. Anand, this is the reason I wasn’t able to visit you. Today too, when you arrived I was changing her bandages and couldn’t leave her to answer the door.”

“What a lovely creature she is, Nanaji! I’m glad I came by to check on you. Will you keep her as your pet?”

Nanaji shook his head. “Birds belong to the sky. When she is well, I’ll let her go.”

Anand softly touched the injured bird. His concern for his grandfather had ended in a surprising discovery. What a wonderful story this would make for dinnertime tonight.

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