“There seems to be one. It says Pune in here,” he pointed at the last few lines.
* * *
“What?” she asked confusedly.
“Last week someone called her up and offered a job in Dubai. She packed up everything and left town,” the old man replied.
After much efforts, Ramya had finally found Shuchi’s address but here they are telling her she has already moved to another land now. Ramya felt very dejected in that moment but still the thought of finding the truth behind the man in Mallika’s life propeller her further.
“Did she know someone here? Some relative perhaps?” Ramya asked.
“No one we know, she would pay the rent on time and that is all we were bothered about,” he replied.
* * *
One after the other all doors were getting closed. There was almost no possible outlet to know Mallika better. And it was almost five by the time she reached Mumbai, already late for teaching the kids.
“Good evening,” she attempted a cheerful greeting. A disgruntled and dejected set of faces met her.
She quietly sat down. Rummaging through the books in her bag, she stumbled upon the story book Suyash had given her. She thought perhaps this could work. She slowly extracted it and started to read out the first story.
“Once upon a time there was a great King,” she read out loud.
She surreptitiously noticed that most of the kids in the room became slightly more attentive. This lifted her spirits in turn.
* * *
It took them two more stories a couple of sweets and plenty of laughter to finally accept Ramya as their teacher. In next one hour, mathematics, english and science equally flowed and inside Ramya’s heart a small bead of satisfaction began to form.
She looked at the watch and realised it was already eight by now and perhaps the right time to close the class.
“Okay so we will meet same time tomorrow here. Is that fine with everybody?” she asked.
“Ramya didi, could you please narrate the story of the princess and the frog again. Mallika didi always narrated that at the end of each class,” a small girl of six spoke innocently.
Ramya smiled and flipped open the storybook to read. But then something struck her, how does this girl now that the story of princess and frog exists in this particular book. Well it could be a mere coincidence but it did seem a bit odd to her.
“Have you seen this book before?” Ramya asked softly.
They all nodded their heads at the same time.
“Where and with whom?” she asked, feeling a sense of alarm rise.
“In Mallika didi’s hands,” they replied.
“But then this could be another copy of the same book. Right?” Ramya asked, still sensing a deep ingrained panic resonate.
“No, this is her copy. It is torn at the back and also has her name inscribed in the last sheet,” the eldest boy in the group who had been unusually quiet the whole time, spoke.
Ramya remained silent. She started to ponder over this new found fact.
“Did you take it from Ayesha? Mallika didi left this book to her,” the small girl replied.
to be contd…
* * *
Connecting it with Ultimate Blogging Challenge.