From Beyond The Grave
The cunning plan of a prankster
PASSING AWAY PARTY
‘I am running late. 10:30 to London Paddington is delayed due to the protests on fake jewels. You should be….’ Anjali heard the monotonous announcement on the train right before the conversation with her grandma ended abruptly. Her face was glistening with sweat, and her long black hair came out of her unruly braid. Her brown eyes shone with joy, and her dimples stood out as she could not stop smiling. She had been running around the house in frenzied excitement the entire morning, trying to get it ready for her grandpa’s passing away party. A fancy name for his first death anniversary. Today was exactly a year since Mr Moorthy’s passing away at the ripe age of 98. And he had requested that they have a party with games and all. She was looking forward to celebrating him with dozen of his close friends.
Anjali was very close to her grandparents, as her parents died when she was young. Her grandparents had moved to England when India got independence from British Raj. Mr Moorthy was a jeweller by trade and had continued the business in London. His company was doing well until the arrival of synthetic diamonds. Mr Moorthy refused to move away from the authentic diamonds business and decided to sell his shop. And he bought a small cottage in Cotswold, which they used as a rental property to earn extra cash. Anjali had just started work as a software engineer and lived in their old house on Chancery lane with her grandma. It was a typical British home - detached. It had two floors, upstairs and downstairs and a garden surrounding it. The kitchen, the dining room and the living room were downstairs. And they had an attic which she rented out on Airbnb to pay off student loans. They could sell the house and move into a smaller flat, but there were too many memories for her.
The news of fake jewels in the British Museum had thrown the entire city into chaos. Everybody was running late, including the cleaners, the caterers and now her grandma. Some of her guests were also delayed. Londoners did not like to be conned, so they protested about the government passing off fake jewels as real ones. Some of them had started a #moneyback tag on Twitter which already had three hundred thousand followers. It all started with a bit of notice in some newspaper that the Red Diamond, also known as Mini Kohinoor, was a fake one. And somehow, it had gathered steam and the museum had to get an expert to verify the authenticity. And to everybody’s surprise, including the officials, it turned out to be a fake. Apparently, it had been a fake all along. Now the entire city was up in arms about how the government was trying to pull one over their eyes.
She wiped her glasses as she wondered at the ridiculousness of the entire situation. This was right up her grandpa’s alley. She wouldn’t have been surprised if he was the one who instigated it all in the first place.
She put her hair in a bun as she reached out to get the partyware from the top shelf. The chai container was piping hot - the one item she could not run out of. The table was set for the caterers. Today, the house smelled of fresh roses and incense. She had changed the covers on all the cushions, and there was a brand-new oriental rug on the floor. Cleaners should be here any minute. And once they are done, she could take a shower and get ready.
BUTLER AND MR MURRAY
Anjali was about to take a shower when her doorbell rang and kept on ringing. A sign that their neighbour Mr Murray, retired copper and her granddad’s arch nemesis, was calling to complain about something. She looked around and knew it had to be about Butler, as that nuisance of a dog was nowhere to be seen.
She opened the door, and Mr Murray was standing there with a half-eaten newspaper still in the plastic bag. It was dripping wet from the drizzle earlier in the morning. It was a typical grey and gloomy London day. The clouds looked like they were about to express their disappointment any minute. And Butler was standing next to Mr Murray with a sad look which he was obviously faking. Mr Murray still had his bathrobe on. He was bald with tufts of grey hair peeking behind his ears. His cheeks were red with exertion. His whole being was quivering with anger at Butler’s antics. ‘Hmpf - I thought you would be better than your granddad - Mr Moorthy, at controlling this devil of dog, Anjali. He has eaten my newspaper. He glared at her before continuing, ‘Again!’.
Anjali gave Butler a shove on his bum to get him back inside the house and apologised to Mr Murray. She promised that it won’t happen again. And said she looked forward to having him at the party later today. Mr Murray mumbled something about like owner, like dog and trampled back to his house. Anjali closed the door and knew there was no point in scolding Butler. Butler was a red Shiba-Inu. A very confident dog, alert, loyal and lively. He had formed a strong bond with her grandpa. He had a stubborn streak - once he set his mind on something, there was no swaying him. In that, he was an exact copy of her grandpa. He was a perfect dog, except when he was not. And he ate everything - nothing was off-limits. And her granddad had taught Butler specific tricks - like he only ate Mr Murray’s newspaper and chewed only on Mrs Potter’s daisy. Butler was the perfect partner in crime to carry out Mr Moorthy’s pranks. She made a mental note to remind the guests to keep their items at the table and not on the floor where Butler could get at them.
Mr Murray and Mr Moorthy were famous on the street for their fights. They were the complete opposites of each other. Her grandpa had a swarthy complexion, thick curly hair, a thick greying moustache, and a slim body. His eyes were always twinkling with a secret only he knew. He and Mr Murray were constantly bickering about sports teams, coppers, weather or British Raj. Her granddad was born a rebel which came to fruition in his fight against the British in the Indian war of Independence. And he happily carried on the tradition with Mr Murray representing the entirety of the British government. And she knew her granddad’s mischievous streak caused Mr Murray some unnecessary heartburn. That one time, he had stolen Mr Murray’s helmet only to make it appear miraculously a week later in his mailbox. Losing the diamond business had not done anything to dampen her grandpa’s spirit.
Her phone buzzed, and she picked it up, thinking it was another guest calling to say they were delayed. But it was a text stating that she had a drone delivery. She opened the door again, hoping that Mr Murray was not around. And there was a brown package wrapped in red ribbon. She looked up to see the drone flying away. She picked up the package.
The package said it came from her grandpa and was addressed to her. She knew her grandpa was known for his strategic and planning skills, but this was a year after his passing. She opened the package to find a red stone inside. She rolled her eyes and placed the red stone with similar stones for the party game. Really, her granddad thought she would forget to plan for his party game. He had told her in preparation for his passing away that he wanted to have a party a year after his death. And he had given her painstakingly detailed instructions about the party game. He had also given her a set of red stones to use. Anjali had the solemn charge to make sure his wishes were carried out. Just like her granddad to control their lives beyond the grave.
The game her granddad wanted to play was titled - Collect the red stones. Each guest would receive a red stone. And he wanted each guest to narrate their favourite story about him - Mr Moorthy. And if any of the guests used the word - rebel or funny and somebody caught them - the speaker would have to hand over their red stone. And the guest with the most red stones at the end would win the game. And as far as Anjali could recall, there was no story about her granddad which did not involve him causing trouble.
She looked at the photo of her grandparents as she climbed the stairs to shower. She wondered how her grandma had put up with her husband all these years. They had married young and had moved to London as a young couple. She was considered a beauty and had aged gracefully. She was petite and fair. In the photo, her hair was braided neatly on the side like the fashion in those days. Her grandma loved her grandpa and put up with all his harebrained schemes. There was complete trust and understanding between the two. Anjali looked at the clock and hoped her grandma would show up before the party ended.
The party was in full swing. Bollywood music was blaring from the side. The Chai container had already been refilled once. Samosas were down to the last tray. The house was filled with aromas of spicy food. It was time to play the game. She handed the stone to every guest explaining the rules of the game. And Mr Murray, who had been invited to the party, volunteered to tell the first story.
He started off with -' Mr Moorthy was a cheeky devil.' And there were requests to hand over the stone. Anjali had to clarify that stones could not be asked for unless the words - rebel or funny were used specifically. She cut off a couple of uncles before they could protest by saying - 'Granddad was very strict about his rules.' They mumbled, but they knew what Mr Moorthy was like. Mr Murray continued the story.
'When Mr Moorthy was a young chap brawling in the streets of India - he and his friends had a brilliant idea. They wanted to r… cause trouble for the British raj and decided to break into his dad's manager's house. Just for the heck of it, because Mr Moorthy was a troublemaker. So, he and his friends break in at night only to find his dad and boss doing accounting for month end. It was awkward as neither party expected the other - and the rebel Mr... '
And here, the guests shouted at once, demanding Mr Murray to hand over the red stone. The debate got heated. Plates were left on the floor, along with drinks. And Butler could not believe that he had all this feast laid out just for him.
Anjali was going to get a plate and bang on it to get everybody's attention when the doorbell rang.
'Step aside, Madam. We have information that the stolen jewels are in this house,' said the cop who rang the bell. Anjali's first response was, 'You have got the wrong house. I am having a death anniversary party for my granddad.'
He was a regular copper tired of the routine beat. His buttons were undone, and the shirt had a mustard smear from his lunch. The smell of fish and chips wafted from him. His coffee cup looked like a permanent fixture in his hand. His eyes had bags under them, and his thinning hair was plastered to his head. He sighed, and put his hands on his waist, and said, 'Is this the house of Mr Rajasundar Moorthy?' Anjali nodded, her heart sinking as she made the connection between the fake jewel and the drone package.
The cop waved his hands for the rest of the team and said, 'this is the house. We have a search warrant.' Anjali trailed behind him as he told the surprised guests that the party was over and they should leave after each of them had been searched with their belongings. Anjali looked forlorn but nodded her head. Her granddad may have been a great planner, but this was going differently than planned. All the guests left, giving comforting looks to Anjali.
Mr Murray stayed back and asked the cop - what was going on. The cop recognised Mr Murray and was more forthcoming. He explained that they had evidence that Mr Moorthy might have possession of the original jewel from his days in India.
Anjali called Butler, who had been raiding the floor as if he had been in a starvation camp. She wanted him by his side as she waited for the cops to announce that they had found the real jewel and put her in handcuffs. For the next couple of hours, the cops did a thorough search - they even had a jeweller expert come and look at all the red stones, but they could not find the original jewel. Anjali was at her wit's end - the waiting was killing her. She was convinced that the cop knew that she was hiding something.
Just then, the cop at the door announced her grandma. She ran and hugged her grandma. Her grandma was a sight for sore eyes. She had dressed in her green saree with a red border for the occasion. Her mostly black hair was tied in a neat bun. She even had a matching green purse with red bangles. Her grandma adjusted her glasses and looked at the house, the strewn cops and the opened brown package. 'I think Butler needs a pee walk', she said. Right on cue, Butler ran in circles as if he wanted to pee.
Anjali asked if she could go with her grandma to give him a pee walk.
The cop said with a resigned look, 'Yeah, sure. We are almost done here. We have a lot of fake red stones but no real stone here.'
Mr Murray commiserated, 'Somebody played a clever prank.'
The cop shook his head in frustration and said, 'You know what bureaucracy is like. Leave no stone unturned. Blah... Blah.' He told the cops at the door to let them through with a reminder to come back soon to sign papers. He apologised for the inconvenience.
So, Anjali, grandma and Butler made their way to Chancery Park around the corner. The park was busy with afternoon joggers. A couple were smooching not so discreetly behind the tree. It was spring, and the leaves were blooming on the oak trees. The pigeons were on the lookout for lunch victims.
Anjali filled her grandma with everything that happened.
Grandma rubbed her hands around the temples and said, 'Let me get this straight. Somehow a mysterious letter gets sent to the museum that the mini-Kohinoor is fake. This morning the original stone gets delivered to you, which you mistake for playing stones. Cops somehow figure out that your granddad was in possession of the stone.'
Anjali nodded her head, 'Yup - that sums it up. Except now, nobody can find the real stone. Maybe it was a fake stone? Otherwise, the cops would have found it by now.
Grandma scrunched her eyes, 'Oh - he knew his jewels. He always had something up his sleeve. He would never have put us in this pickle otherwise.'
Anjali asked, 'You had no clue?'
Grandma thought for a while and said, 'You know he had told me he had something planned for his passing away party. And now that I recall, he was very insistent that I take Butler for a walk the minute I arrived.'
They stopped while Butler did his business. And Anjali was about to pick up poop when she said, 'And he could not have planned it better! Including the protests, train delays - everything….'
Grandma and Anjali shared the shiny red stone in Butler's poop while he gave them a knowing grin.
About the Creator
My vision in life is to be a Better Version Of Myself Every Day. And my purpose in life is ‘Learn, Grow, Inspire and Contribute’.
Everything that I do ties into this vision - including my writing. Check out anumorris.com for more info!
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