[#2] A Chat With The Caretaker

A tale told by Mohit Mamoria

Image Courtesy: StackExchange

The story begins at The Haveli.

Saafiya couldn’t comprehend even a single word of what she was hearing. She wanted to giggle and tell Ramu that he could stop joking, but hearing that her Momo was a time traveler filled her with irritation. She wanted to let out a long sigh of despair at him and go back to her bed.

But she knew Ramu for barely a half day then, and it made more sense to her that living alone in the big Haveli might have made him go crazy. She didn’t sigh at him and instead tried talking further — or more appropriate, asking more questions.

With a streak of fake curiosity in her eyes, she asked, “What do you mean Ramu kaka? My Momo was a time traveler? She couldn’t even travel between cities, forget the time! And what fate could two old people change of entire village?”

Ramu looked into her eyes and as if he had identified the fake curiosity in her eyes and said, “You must go and sleep now, child. It’s gotten very late.”

She quickly snapped back, “I am not sleepy at all. It had been really long time since Momo told me a story. At least, you can tell me her story. Please.”

She realised Ramu’s denial to answer in first attempt made her really curious about what he might know that she doesn’t. If he was really crazy, as she thought, Ramu might have told a made up story at first attempt itself.

Ramu cleared his throat and said, “Child.. Saafiya.. Can I call you by your name? Child, I can tell what I know. But I am afraid I don’t know much.”

“I would love to hear whatever you know, kaka”, she replied with a smile. “And yes, you can call me Saafiya.”

Ramu nodded his head and walked towards the door of the room that was still open behind her. He shut the door. “Let not everyone hear about it. I know only half things and half knowledge, if leaked outside, can create havoc.”

She nodded. Ramu took off his glasses from his eyes and began talking.

“It was long back — the time much before I came to know your grandparents. It is a legend that your grandparents weren’t the refugees who seeked for a place to live after the India-Pakistan partition, but instead they were the refugees from the future. It is said that they came from future and chose to come back to the time of partition because it was easier to create a new identity for oneself. If they would have come back in any other time, they could be easily identified. Partition also helped them build up stories of how everything they had was left back in the neighboring country and thus helped them start afresh without attracting any unwanted attention. Saafiya, it is all a legend — the things people say about them. I don’t know if they are true or not.”

Saafiya trying to figure out what to make out of his narration, said, “I understand, kaka. Please continue.”

Ramu continued, “When they arrived here, they brought only one thing along with them — something that looked like a candle. And your grandfather sometimes after getting drunk used to utter the words, ‘Only if I had known it earlier, I could do something about it. I’ll go back in time and tell myself what must be done’. Some people thought he had gone crazy but to be honest, I have seen him uttering truths after getting drunk.”

Saafiya tried to help him, “May be, if legends of their arrival are true, he might have got to know something in future and he wanted to let a much earlier version of himself to know so that something could be done about it. May be.”

Ramu agreed immediately, “Yes yes yes, my child. I think the same. But I have never got the nerve to ask this straight to your grandfather. But anyway, this idea became evident when they told rich people in Kibber that they have come from future and can make them travel in time if they can pay for it. That’s how they soon became one of the richest family in the village and everyone who paid for the time travel were never given the round trip. All of them were sent to future or past to never return back to present, and the secret stayed a secret, only legends floated around. Soon they moved to Delhi leaving this Haveli for me to take care. They never returned but one day, seven years ago, I received a parcel from them. It contained a small sparkling ball and a letter. The letter said, ‘Keep this safe. Little angel will need it one day.’”

She interrupted, “Little angel? Momo used to call me that. Can you give me that parcel please?”

“Uh.. um.. Yes, it’s in the store. Can I find it in the morning for you please, Saafiya?”

She nodded and without saying or listening further, left the room. It was still dark outside. She went straight to her friends’ room and knocked on the door.

*Knock Knock Knock*

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