If it is not red.....
by Apurba Dutta
It was the last Tuesday of
August, and a very different one for the very
peculiar Mr. Pandey.
Unfortunately for him, the
office had closed for the day right on schedule,
which seemed so early and so unfair. For Mr.
Pandey, any work of substance got done in office,
and that was where the best part of the day,
evening and night (sometimes), was meant to be
Feeling out of sorts at
home, he sat on the terrace, appreciating nothing
and silently cursing the whole world. The outside
held no value for him. But his children, glad to
have the company of their father, played happily
in his midst, chirping all the while.
"Look papa, up there."
It was Vinod, his younger son. He was pointing to
the sky, specifically at the bright object that
had seemingly made a perfunctory intrusion.
"Only an aeroplane."
His father replied, after just a cursory glance.
"No, it's a
Pooh! The snort, not used
to the word 'no', was big enough.
Neha was his daughter,
older than Vinod by two years, with enough
intelligence and common sense to understand where
his fathers dilemmas lay. She refused to be
cowed down so easily.
"Papa, I can bet it's
the red planet. How come it isn't moving, if it's
All of a sudden, Mr. Pandey
found himself sweating. He loved bets, but with
his office colleagues. He loved being heckled,
but only at the hands of his boss. He longed for
the air-conditioner idling away in his office
He couldn't let this happen.
His pride was at stake, and he needed to defend
it with all the weaponry at his disposal, and
that included browbeating.
"How on earth could
any planet come so near? Another week and we
would be smashed to pulp. What daftness!"
"It's in the
newspapers. Mars is closer to earth now than it's
been in sixty thousand years."
Mr. Pandey's venture into
newspapers was limited to politics - ignorance in
other matters forced him to try his hand at
Pointing to the sky, he
"Okay, that is a
planet, but I also saw a plane."
"Come on, don't fool
us. There was no plane." The nobility in
Vinod went to defending his sister.
"Yes, there was. It
went behind the planet of yours and vanished."
Mrs. Pandey was in the
kitchen, dutifully preparing supper for her
husband and children, and listening to all that
was being said. She was a proud woman who had
tolerated her husband's obstinacies for years
without much fuss, but as they say, all dams have
to burst one day.
Providence chose the
evening of the last Tuesday of August, when she
could no longer hold on to her emotions.
"IF THERE WAS A PLANE
WHICH WENT WHERE YOU SAID IT WENT, GOD SAVE US.
AND IF THERE IS ANOTHER ONE COMING, PLEASE THUMB
Mr. Pandey heard each and
every word, capitals and all. There was no way he
could have avoided. For a long time, his face
borrowed a colour from the heavenly object that
dangled in the sky.