The train halted at the station as people bustled around hunting for seats. Vendors screamed on top of their lungs selling snacks and sweets. Placing his bag under the seat, Rakesh sat comfortably, while scanning his surroundings.
“Please take care of your baggage and children,” a woman on the PA system kept announcing.
Rakesh mentally counted the number of fellow passengers in the sleeper class coach as the train chugged away from the station. He had just a couple of hours before alighting to his destination.
“Beta, can I please take the window seat? I can’t stand the heat.” An old woman in her fifties was smiling.
Rakesh’s eyes gleamed with greed as her gold necklaces and bangles seemed beguiling.
“Sure, aunty,” he replied offering her a packet of biscuit and chips. A sly smile crept on his lips.
“Thanks, but today I’m fasting. I shall eat or drink post sunset once I finish chanting.”
Rakesh checked the time. Still an hour for sunset before he could commit the crime. His plan to feed the drugged biscuits to his fellow passengers, thus putting them to sleep had to wait. His previous ruses to rob people in trains hadn’t failed till date.
“Ma says we shouldn’t accept food from strangers,” a little boy declared with confidence.
His parents adored their little one’s intelligence.
“I’m not a stranger, dear. Consider me as your friendly neighbor.”
The boy’s loud proclamation made Rakesh upset. Kids these days were too well informed, thanks to the bloody internet.
“We’ve a long way to reach our destination. Wouldn’t it be fun to make this journey a joyful celebration?”
Some heads began nodding. The old woman was still praying.
Soon, Rakesh won hearts by playing antakshari and board games. The little boy’s speculation went up in flames. Everyone laughed and made merry at last. Finally, it was sunset and the woman prepared to break her fast.
Rakesh’s greedy eyes were set on her necklace. Wouldn’t it look elegant on his fiancée’s neck, making her friends jealous! The woman looked rich in her maroon silk saree laced with golden border. Her neatly tied silvery bun adorned jasmine flowers that imbued its sweet fragrance to all nook and corner.
Rakesh sprang to his feet to distribute biscuits to everyone.
But the woman interrupted, saying, “let me distribute the Prasad first, son.”
“Laddoos! I love laddoos.”
The little boy took a big piece and gobbled up quickly. An annoyed Rakesh gulped one, though he wasn’t interested clearly. After distributing the biscuits, he waited eagerly for everyone to sleep. Alas, he didn’t realise when he too fell asleep.
Noisy cries awakened him. The co-passengers’ expressions were grim.
“Our bags are robbed.” A man sobbed.
Aghast, Rakesh scrutinised everywhere. The old woman wasn’t seen anywhere. His wallet was gone too. The prasad was drugged, now he knew.
Slumping, he cursed his luck. The crafty woman proved that age is just a number, making him look like a complete schmuck.
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