It was Sunday. Bapuji wanted to visit the derasar- the nearby temple- and waited for Indira to join him. Growing impatient, he made his way down the stairs and out of the front door, calling for her. Indira, sensing the irritation in his voice, hurried down the stairwell with the cut-out walls, forgetting, in her haste, to lock the grille at the top of the stairs.
The ‘askari’- guard- who usually patrols the area had been up to the apartment to help Anil, and then went out to fetch water, closing the front door carefully behind him. Ba was in the kitchen when she heard the sound of the grille being pushed open. Before she could react a hand had been clamped over her mouth, dark eyes staring threateningly at her- the rest of the assailant’s face was hidden behind layers of a long, white scarf wrapped around his head. There was one more man behind him, face similarly disguised. Anil was on the balcony, hidden from view, when he heard Ba’s muffled shouts. ‘Ba! Ba!’ he called in distress. The intruders, presumably alarmed at the thought of another person in the apartment, chose to flee. Ba rushed to Anil and, looking down at the street below from the balcony, could see the askari returning. ‘Fetch Mama (Indira) from the derasar- quickly.’ she cried. Indira and Bapuji were already on their way back, and together with the askari, searched the apartment carefully in case anyone had remained behind. It is too much, this constant threat of violence, for anyone – but especially for four people whose combined ages equal 322 years.
Accepting the unlocked grille at the top of the stairs, the question which provokes the most concern is how the men got into the building at all. One theory is that they snuck in while Bapuji was standing with his back to the front door, perhaps looking towards the derasar; they may have hidden in the shadows next to the stairs while Indira climbed down. However, they hid their faces with scarves, which suggests premeditation, unless both intruders happen to be partial to neckwear in 30 degree heat. Another question follows the first: if it was a premeditated break-in did they have insider help? A copy of the front door key, for instance? It is pure conjecture, there is no proof at all, but we are left with a slightly anxious feeling in the pit of the stomach. Let us hope that this post does not become a trilogy. (Read the first instalment here)