Suddenly, Mami's sight turned towards a police constable in the colony compound, who was standing near the scooter of her son, Suresh. Extremely apprehensive and annoyed with a policeman's presence, that too near their scooter, she had to call Mama for possible investigation and report to her with full details. As a sustained obedient spouse for the past four decades, Mama implicitly demonstrated his positive response to resolve the issue. He just rushed to glance the presence of the policeman near their scooter.
"Suresh came home very late last night. He was walking up the stairs staggering as if he was intoxicated. He must have committed a 'hit and run' case en route; obviously the police had come. Let us wait for the policeman's next move." Mama quipped to Mami.
"I don't know why you always suspect Suresh for everything. Even though he was born to us, he is very smart and intelligent. Do you know that he has been offered a modeling career by a big company for their products?". She made an odd grin at him as she was grooming her wispy hair which was spread itself in a disarray.
Mama's ego was ignited instantly with her words on Suresh's evidenced smartness, outweighing his individual personality; for, after all, Suresh was none but the "chip of the old block". Nobody would like to have their ego insulted, much less, a male by a female, and he was no exception to it.
"Ah! You talk about the modeling offer he got. Do you know from which company he got the offer and what sort of a modeling he would do for that company? He had been offered to pose for an underwear manufacturing company. This means he had to appear nearly nude except for the underwear in the newspaper and magazine advertisements. They would carry his 'nearly nude' pictures also. I do not feel any pride or achievement in this".
At this juncture both of them heard the door bell ringing. He opened the door to see Murali, the thin and timid teenager and a total misfit to be in the present day ultra-modern youth world, belonging to the opposite apartment, standing with fixtures of fear. His scare overpowered and allowed him only to deliver very meagre words.
"Mama, did you see a policeman had come to our colony?" "Murali! What is wrong with you? What if, the policeman had come to the colony? You seem to be scarred with his presence".
"Yes Mama, he must be looking for me. Last night when I was returning home from the temple, it was dark, and near the entrance of our colony, I found a hundred rupee currency note on the road. As there was nobody around at that time, I took and kept it with me overnight. Now I could perceive that somebody had seen me taking that and would have reported it to the Police".
Down his memory lane, Mama recollected a proverbial saying " Make hey while sun shines". He was impelled to apply that adage at this opportunity with Murali for his personal gains. In spite of his old age physical weakness, he was always sharp and alert to situations. Through a convincing offer to Murali to leave the money with him and he would take care of the police constable, Mama was confident to keep that 'fortune' to himself.
"Murali. Don't worry. What you said might be right. It would do no good to take chances with the police people. Possibilities might be that he would visit your home and search you too! It would be better for you to leave that note with me and I would handle the constable suitably".
When Murali instantly expressed his concurrence, Mama was exuberant in the initial success of his game plan. Murali was relieved as the stolen currency note changed hands. He was happy to be out of it and left the house.
Poor Mama was not aware that there was an eye-witness to the whole scene whose testimony would attract jail sentence for him under Sec. 304 of the Indian Penal Code. This witness was none but his wife. She was very careful in strategically overhearing their deliberations and equally curious to watch the next move of Mama in the conspiracy.
Once again, the door bell rang and Mama opened the door to find Malini, a teenager girl from the upstairs apartment.
"Mama, did you see the policeman in our compound?" Malini, while questioning, was not scarred but appeared worried.
"Yes. Malini but why you seem to be worried with his presence?" "Mama, I had a fight with my friend in the school yesterday and that could be the reason for my worry".
"Tell me as to why a Policeman had to be here for a quarrel with your friend?"
"Mama, she was teasing me very badly yesterday and I slapped her. She, being the daughter of the local Police Inspector, did threaten me to punish me through her father. That might be the reason for the constable to be here. In the fight, she also forgot to pick up her important text book which I have it with me. I also found a 50-rupee note inside the book. I don't know what to do now".
Again the Mama's memory referred him to the proverbial sun and hay. There was an initial ecstasy as this would increase the earlier fortune.
"Malini, this time you had already done the damage. But ensure you don't repeat this again. God's sermon is that the moment one realizes and repents for his or her mistake, the stigma of sin on that individual immediately vanishes. Leave the book and the money with me, and I would take care of the constable suitably. Don't tell anybody about this."
Mama's strategy combined with a little dose of philosophy worked very well with Malini. While he was complacent on adding to the earlier fortune, he hardly realized that all his favourable advances in the 'fortune conspiracy' were closely monitored, witnessed and watched by the eagle eyes of his wife. He was planning to spend that money in a card game, for which once he was an addict. He had to give it up when the financial resources came to a grinding halt. With this money he thought he could at least try his hand at his favourite old game. His plan was short lived as his wife closely followed and questioned him as to what he is going to do with the money from the two.
"Which money you are talking about?" He was tough as he thought that will put down her spirits to acquire it.
"I know I have been watching all your activities. Instead of investigating as to why the policeman was standing near our scooter, you have scarred the two young lives, and in the pretext of saving them, you have robbed the money which they got illegally. In fact, you, and the children are all thieves. If you do not tell me your plan to spend that money, I will expose this to everybody including the policeman"
Mami was really shrewd and used her trump card to threaten him.
"Pankajam, listen to me first. I do not have any plans to spend this money. But we have to be very careful in doing it. First I have to dispose of the policeman to convince both Murali and Malini. Let me just do that first. Meantime, you think over of what you want to do with this money. Whatever your plans are, I should also be the beneficiary of that money either wholly or part of it. But for my convincing them, they would not have parted the money with us. I will be back in few minutes."
His total confession was a remarkable success indicator to Mami. In the colony's gossip group, the latest news was that a new restaurant, "Archana" was opened in that area; already her friend, Buvana, with her husband Chandramouli dined in that restaurant and was bragging to everybody about it. She had been planning restlessly to counter this. She decided to use this 'fortune' in that direction.
Mama went down to check with the policeman. By the time he came down to the entrance, he disappeared. The colony watchman Velu was there near their scooter. He enquired him about the visit of the policeman and his looking at their scooter.
Velu said, "Sir, he is my brother-in-law. He was asked to do the morning beat in this area. As he saw me, he came up to me and we were exchanging notes on our domestic problems. Nothing else, Sir".
As soon as he finished, Mama's glance turned towards the first storeys of the building to ensure both Murali and Malini were not there. Thank God, as he expected, they were not watching him. Now he could tell them that he had convinced the policeman and he left the colony. After a successful first phase of his enactment, he came back to his home and Mami was ready to receive him.
"What happened? I don't see the policeman now? Did you talk to him? Was there any damage to our scooter?" A series of questions baffled Mama.
"Yes. I spoke to the policeman and he is convinced. It looks that Suresh had not stopped on a traffic red light and he was the traffic cop at that point. On my convincing explanations, he understood as to why he could not stop in the red signal. He said he will waive and warn him this time. Even to tell a lie, one should be intelligent. Only a lie has saved Suresh from police prosecution."
"What was that convincing lie you told him?" She was more interested in getting the truth from him.
"I told him that I had a mild heart attack and we called him. He was rushing to see me and that is why he did not stop in the red light?
Mama's fabrication was just beautiful and apt to the situation. He proved once again that he was intelligent.
"For Heaven's sake at least, please stop your non-sense. By the time you went down to see the policeman, he had disappeared. You have been talking only to the watchman. All these I was witnessing from our window. Your guilty conscience warned you at that time, and you wanted to make sure that both Murali and Malini have not seen you after the policeman left. Instead, they came to me and asked me about the policeman and I told them that you had already talked to him and convinced him. That is how he left the place. Even in this I have to save you"
Mami's counter was so strong, he could not offer anything to defend him. He felt so ashamed that at that age he lied to her just to keep his ego up; but alas, he miserably failed in it.
"Now tell me what is your plan for the money" He was soft this time to Mami. Being good, Mama thought he would be given a major share in the spending spree of the fortune.
"We are going out for dinner tonight in Archana restaurant. My friend Buvana had already visited that place and she was bragging about it in our circles."
After a protracted argument, they settled at a tentative agreement to dine at Archana. It is quite long since he also had a full course dinner; the last lavish meal he had was nearly three months before in a relative's wedding.
After a short siesta wherein both had dreams about the ensuing evening dinner, Mama was the first one to get up at the sound of the calling bell.
He opened the door to see a traffic constable at the entrance.
"Sir, who is Suresh here?" asked the traffic cop. "I have a summons for him. He had done a traffic violation of not stopping at a red signal three days before?"
"Oh! Suresh is my son. I can take the summons".
With rays of anxiety in his face, he signed for Suresh and opened it. It contained an order to appear before the Magistrate's court next week or pay a fine of Rs.150/- through money order.
He called his wife to convey the sudden setback they had in spending the 'fortune'. Following this, she hurriedly came to him and she understood what had happened.
As they were looking at each other, Suresh came out from his room.
"Yes. I did that violation. But now, I don't have to pay from my pocket as you got some money from an unaccounted illegal source. Let the fine be paid out of that".
Mama and Mami were startled at the quick decision made by Suresh. They were thinking that he was asleep in his room and would not have known about anything on this. Finally the "nice dinner" and "visit to Archana restaurant" have become a mirage. Now, the old couple consoled themselves as, at least that they don't have to pay the fine from family funds. But this complacency was again momentary as there was a call again at the door.
Mama opened the door to see both Murali and Malini standing at the entrance.
"Mama, please don't worry about our problems. We got the information that the police constable was just visiting his brother-in-law, watchman Velu this morning. Murali's father, while returning home, had dropped that one-hundred rupee note which Murali picked up. It is their money and not anybody's. About me, my friend called me and apologized for her behaviour in the school. She said that she had left the book with the money of Rs.50/- in the school. So I have decided to return her book with the money and become friendly to her. Could you please return our money?"
Mama's intelligence had a severe test and the proverbial sunshine was shortlived to make the hey . Both Murali and Malini collected their money. However, Mama's guilty conscience made a hearty laugh and whispered "you are still a culprit".