Krishnan sat on his easy-chair watching television, Outside it was already dark. There was no moon and the stars could not be seen too. Krishnan wondered whether it will rain later.
His mother was patching up some torn shirts at her sewing machine.
Krishnan’s father works as a lorry driver. He was on a long trip south and would not be back fora day or two. So being the only child in the family, it was Krishnan’s duty to look after the house in his father’s absence.
The sewing machine whirred noisily as his mother pedalled it. Krishnan thought it was too noisy. He felt annoyed because he could not hear the programme clearly. The sewing machine definitely needed some oiling. Krishnan decided. It grated too much.
He turned his head to look at his mother but she was not there. Strange, he thought He definitely heard a grating sound just now. He shrugged his shoulders and returned his attention to the television set.
He heard the sound again. It was a grating sound, somewhat like a hard object scraping against an equally hard surface. He turned his head. Again he saw nothing but an unattended sewing machine. Where was his mother?
As if in reply to his thoughts, his mother emerged from the kitchen carrying some clothes in her hand.
She stopped suddenly in mid-stride and put a finger to her lips in a gesture of ‘silence’. Krishnan froze. There was that sound again over and above the din of the television set!
Annoyed. Krishnan got up and was about to ask his mother what caused the sound when she again motioned him to be silent. This time Krishnan felt goosebumps at the back of his neck. Something strange was going on The grating sound was.definitely not a familiar one.
This time he motioned his mother to be silent. He cocked his ear to listen for the sound again.
It came once more. Krishnan figured it was coming from his parents’ room.
He tip-toed quietly toward the room to find the origin of the strange sound. The sound is persistent.
All of a sudden he was aware of an image on the room window. There was somebody there! For a moment he was completely stunned. There it was definitely, a man behind the window!
It took a few seconds for Krishnan to realise that this man was trying to remove the iron bar on the window with a screwdriver. He could clearly see the screw-driver digging into the window frame. It was a burglar trying to get in!
He uttered an incoherent sound. The man at the window looked up from his labour. They stared at each other for a moment intense silence. Both understood what was happening. Then in a flash, the face disappeared and all Krishnan could see was an empty window. He rushed to the window and peered outside. In the darkness, he caught a faint glimpse of a man running into the trees behind his house.
Krishnan rushed out of the house and shouted “thief, thief’ Very quickly the whole neighbourhood came alive with eager men carrying sticks and knives and shining torches at where the would-be burglar had gone.
Theirs was a futile search. The culprit was long gone. There was no hope of catching him.
They finally gave up and returned home. Krishnan found his mother being consoled by well-meaning neighbours. The television set was still on and was too loud. He switched it off. He decided that he would never switch on the TV so loudly ever again so that if ever he heard another grating sound he would not be caught so unawares.
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