By Marina Thomas

The morning was bright. I came panting after my usual jog and sunk into my recliner, seizing in an instant, on the Times.

“Nirav Modi convicted of 12K scam”……..

“Three- year- old raped and murdered”………

“MLA suspected in murder of secretary” ……

I thought to myself – What is the future of my beloved country? When will we have a corruption and crime-free society to live in?

I was immersed in gloom, looking into nowhere, when the aroma of mint tea aroused my senses again. I looked at my loving wife and said, “Lovely! This is all I needed after the work-out.” She smiled and, blurted as she sped to finish her errands, “Don’t forget about the grocery bill.” I replied imitating her sing-song style, “Yes, of course, dear”. Leaving the newspaper on the teapoy, I headed to the living-room’s huge teak counter where all the depressing medical records and bills are stacked for my attention to suck away my monthly salary…5386…..2120….1924…..this time its close to 9400. 1/4th of my earning has already been wiped away by just 3 pieces of paper! “To hell with this GST,” I cursed, as I parted sadly with 5 virgin 2000 notes from my wallet.

As I rushed in for my shower, I sulked as I announced, “Leenaaaaaa, I have kept 10000 near the phone.” I could imagine the brightness on her face even from the washroom. Whoever said that spouses are together in their joys and pains! Mine is thrilled when I am broke from all her shopping. As the water ran down my back, I suddenly realized like the burning of a light bulb, and blurted What was that? In no time I was done with the chore and rushed back to the bills. I ran my eyes on each word and called out, “Leena, was this all purchased for OUR kitchen?” She was offended but did me a favour by going through the bill. In an instant, she quipped, “Of course”.

“For what in the world would you buy wheat worth 2000 for just the two of us, Leena?” We sat down and analyzed the bills and realized that this grocer had been cheating us for the past 6 months by over-valuing the quantity in certain items. Since we kept a credit account, we never realized it. We had never been suspicious too. I was seeing red and Leena felt guilty for not having been vigilant. I comforted her and said, “Corruption is not only in the news, it is so near us. We will not keep credit anymore. Clear the bills on the same day”. She suggested, “Let us move to another grocer”. “Each grocer will have his own creative ways of cheating; let us teach this guy a lesson,” I said. I replaced my new lovely notes in my worn-out wallet. Leena looked on with wonder as I brought out of the bedroom another set and gave her. She counted and said, “10000! What’s the big deal?” “There IS a big deal,” I remarked, “Look at the notes carefully”. She checked it flip and flap and found nothing peculiar. I whispered, “It is fake!” She chuckled, “How did you get this?” and in an instant she went pale, “What if he finds out?” “Mmm, let us wait,” I said, as I got ready for my day. In the evening, when I returned I had a plan in my head, “Look Leena, today is Saturday. Go to him in the evening when he is in hurry to close the shop. So many customers are there at that time that he will not even know who gave the fake ones even if he realizes it later. Moreover, he will never suspect you.”

She clung to my shoulder and pleaded, “Should we really do this? Isn’t it cheating?” I replied, “What is a better return for what he did?” I squeezed her to my chest and patted her locks, “When is our next appointment with the gynaec?” “After 1 week,” she said shyly. “Aaah! This time, I hope a lot, baby,” I mused. I realized she was crying when a tear fell on my hand. We have been going to several gynaecs for the past seven years. All my hard-earned money disappeared in thin air each time we made an appointment. “You didn’t tell me how you got those fakes,” she enquired as she returned to composure.

I kissed her forehead gently and squeezed her to my heart once again and said gaily, “Leena, I love you.” Looking deeply into her eyes, I said, “You only solved my problem, baby. That was the money your dad gave me as birthday gift”. She rolled her eyes in disbelief and shrugged me away, “No, this can’t be…He is not like that…….you are simply blaming him…..tell me from where you got it………” I allowed her to finish her rattling. Then I calmly said, “Did I tell you he cheated me? He believed it to be real. But I realized it for the first time when I paid for petrol. I never told you fearing that it would hurt you……never even mentioned it to him. I know what it means for a retired dad to save some silver for his babe. Leena, I…” She wept and fell into my arms. I never had to say anything more in explanation. We said a prayer and then she left. I kept my fingers crossed till she returned smilingly. She sprang on to my chest, shouting gleefully, “Mission successful!” We giggled and howled and had a great romantic evening. I had paid my bills without losing a penny, taught the grocer a lesson and warned my wife of reckless spending, made a boring weekend a thrilling romance – all in one stroke.

As I slept I prayed again, “God, bless us with a child…please. And bless my country that we may be corruption-free.”


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