There is something about the tales of our childhood, about those comics that had a single dialogue accompanying a colorful picture, about those stories titled ‘The Cock and The Crow’, ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, ‘Martin and his slippers’ and so on. Those titles caused in me a tingle of excitement and I started calling them the ‘AND’ stories. On train journeys, I would look for magazines which had such AND stories in them. This little story is for kids who like to watch ‘Oggy and the Cockroaches’, ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ and the like.
“Here, have some.” Tinku shoved a ring-like structure into reluctant jaws. “Chocolate likes these onion rings!”, he exclaimed, pointing at a feline whiskery creature, perched up onto the chair where Tinku sat, its paws clutching at the chair handles and its whiskers blowing every which way as it gobbled up the given food and purred on, asking for more.
“Why weren’t you having them before? See they are so tasty!”, Tinku scolded his pet cat while feeding it the onion rings his mother had made and which he thoroughly disliked.
“That is where all my work goes.” Tinku’s mother sighed in annoyance. “In vain.” Tinku did not like onions or anything which contained them. He felt they left a bad stale taste in his mouth which refused to leave him even after several mouthwashes. He loved his pet cat, whom he had found wandering about in the streets one day, when he decided to carry it into the house. People usually kept dogs as they were loyal and not “wily cats” as his mother had termed his pet when he had declared that he was going to keep it and named it ‘Chocolate’ after the article of food he liked best. But Tinku was wilier than cats, slyer than foxes and cleverer than most people his age.
“Don’t poke around. Get ready.” Mom scolded Tinku as he tried to tinker with the nailcutter, pulling the flap back as far as it could go. “I am ready.” Tinku replied, continuing with his exercise.
They were preparing to go to a wedding that evening. Mom had put on a glittering golden saree that almost blinded Tinku when he looked at her. She was clipping large gold earrings to her earlobes when she cried out, “where are my bangles?”
Tinku jumped, the nailcutter, flying from his reach. “I don’t know”, he said.
“I had kept them here. Right here!”, she exclaimed hysterically, pounding on the dressing table. But the bangles were nowhere to be seen. Mom’s hysterics made Dad and son comb the entire room but the bangles still eluded them. “They were made of gold, for God’s sake! Where are they?”
They searched and searched but Fate had something else in store. Mom had to wear some ersatz jewellery to the event and she went most reluctantly, her face forlorn and her manner most woebegone.
“But where could they go?” The question refused to leave mom’s lips even the next day. They had searched the entire house but they couldn’t find the bangles. “This will teach you a lesson, showing off to those maid-servants of yours!” Dad looked at Mom reprovingly.
“I never showed them a single ornament!”, she countered indignantly.
“Well, you may have opened your boxes in front of them or perhaps talked about your newest and latest collections to them or probably to your friends and they must have overheard you on the phone or something.” offered Dad.
“I obviously didn’t!”, mom retorted but with a slightly suppressed voice as if she wasn’t so sure.
“Clean the corners well!”, instructed mom as she followed the domestic help about the house as she swept and dusted. When the cleaning was done and the maid finally left the house, mom sank into a chair. “Give me some water, Tinku”, she called. As Tinku brought her a glass, she decided to recheck her room, wardrobe and everything, even though the thorough cleaning had left nothing to chance.
However, something had gone amiss. “I cannot find my artificial bangles either! I had worn them yesterday itself!”, mom screamed, surprised out of her wits. “I was with her the entire day and I watched her like a hawk. She didn’t take a single penny, I am sure of that.”
But just like the previous day, the bangles had gone missing. They opened the wardrobe, searched here and there but couldn’t find the bangles anywhere. Where were the bangles after all? How did they disappear into thin air? Who was robbing them?
“I am sure its him”, Mom pointed at Tinku. “Tinku is playing one of his stupid pranks.”
“Oh God! For the thousandth time I am telling you, its not me!”, Tinku replied hotly.
“If it turns out to be you, then you won’t be spared. Mind you! I will spank you and you will remain grounded till you know better!”, his mother’s warning rang in his ears. “And control this pet of yours! Kamla complains of its whiskers and pawprints everywhere. She has a hard time cleaning away the dust anyway.”
“Come Chocolate, I will give you some onion rings!”, Tinku fondly stroked his pet and took it to his room.
“Awwww, what happened to your fabled fangs? Did they really fall out or something?” , Tinku murmured while examining the interior of Chocolate’s mouth, as the cat refrained from eating the onion rings. Perhaps, the cat had also developed a revulsion to the smell of an onion.
Tinku checked the cat’s mouth and an idea struck him. He ran outside and in a few moments dashed to mom, carrying the stolen bangles in his hands.
“Where did you find them?”, mom was visibly overjoyed.
“Just know that your genius son found them!”
“I knew you had hidden them. I knew it!”, Mom’s temper suddenly flared.
“No, I didn’t! It was Chocolate! She thought they were onion rings and tried to chew them.” Tinku explained.
“What the crap are you talking about?” Mom grew impatient.
“I will tell you but first promise me that you will take her to the vet.”
“No! First, she steals and chews my bangles and then I spend money on her. Forget it! And don’t give her those onion rings! ”
“She won’t have any. Although she liked them when I fed them to her for the first time, after trying to chew your bangles, her dislike for the rings grew till she broke one of her teeth trying to sink them into your jewels, thinking that they were onion rings. Since she was sly enough to understand that she was stealing from the house, she hid the bangles near her resting place in the garden.”
“How did you know about such goings-on? Did she narrate the whole story to you or what?”
“Well, at first it was her whiskers strewn about near the wardrobe (that you pointed out to me that day). Then her reluctance to eat the onion rings, she liked so much at first. I just had to add two plus two. It was easy.”
“Well, you sure are a nosy boy. But a clever nosy boy.” Mom said with a hint of pride in her voice.