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The Mysterious Stomach Ache
by Nithya Rajagopal (Prose - Short Story) | Published On: 13-Jul-2018

It was the holy month of Aadi (mid-July to mid-August). The entire 30 days were devoted to Goddess Parvati. The ancestors forbade new ventures and auspicious ceremonies. To buy a new pair of shoes was sacrilege. But an enterprising businessman knew this much that offering something at even 10% discount could instigate the grandest rebellion against the entire family tree. The ancestors had reaped the fruit of their actions and were well-settled in the grave anyway. A little hustle here and there could only be entertaining. And adding some pocket change in this manner was a mutually beneficial gesture.

So, Descartes Automobiles decided to offer second hand, luxury cars at a 15% discount from the usual selling price. The campaign set the cash registers ringing. Without telling his parents or his wife about his plans, Deepak walked into the showroom and began to tour the facility. Once the car comes home, nobody can do anything about it, he thought to himself.

Deepak spotted a champagne coloured Toyota SUV and decided to test drive it. A car that would otherwise cost him 16 lakhs was being offered at 12 lakhs. That was a huge discount.

'The owner left India, Sir. So, he had to sell his car,' said the salesman, without making eye contact. 'If you come after Aadi, this car will be nothing less than 14 lakhs,' he continued. 'It has leather seats and alloy wheels too, Sir. I wouldn’t miss this deal.' So saying, the salesman opened the driver’s seat and made Deepak sit inside. He quickly ran to the passenger’s seat and wore the seat belt. 'Let us go, Sir. You can test drive the car as much as you want.' He said. 'I will see to it that it is delivered within a week,' he went on. 'Insurance is also free now, Sir.' If the salesman was jittery, he was doing a good job of hiding it from Deepak.

The car drove like a knife through butter. The steering and air conditioning was impressive. Deepak felt sorry the owner had to miss this beautiful car and take up a life outside India. By the time they returned to the showroom, the deal was complete. Over the next two days, all the paperwork was handled.

The next Friday evening, a shining Toyota SUV, bedecked with blue and pink ribbons and red roses, was delivered at Deepak’s home. His son’s joy knew no bounds.  However, his parents and wife could hardly wait for the delivery team to leave. They were glaring at him with ice-cold eyes. Then his father‘s voice boomed across the hall. 'Aadi maasam. Don’t you know you should not get anything new?' He then turned to his wife and continued to yell at her. 'What kind of upbringing is this? Your grown up son doesn’t know such a basic thing? I can’t believe he has a wife and a son.' Deepak’s wife pinched his arms and glared at him. 'Do I really deserve these great reviews?'  Deepak did his time tested ritual of looking helpless and smiling, waiting for the waves to recede. 'What if something happens?' his father was on a tirade. 'Let us take the car to the temple.'

With three people shouting at him from the rear and passenger seats, Deepak drove to the temple. After pleasing the Gods, his mother stopped at the store. The shopkeeper was sipping coffee and biting into a samosa. She purchased a Hanuman in flying posture for the car. 'Appa Hanuman! Please be with my son. He has committed a mistake, forgive him. Protect this car from evil eyes and accidents,' she said. She asked Deepak to tie the Hanuman to the rear view mirror. Deepak decided to celebrate the occasion with dinner at a nearby restaurant. He turned the key in the ignition and started the car. Just as he looked at the rear view mirror, he saw somebody falling off the stool at the store. Somebody came running to help the man. Deepak shrugged and left for the restaurant.

Everyone except Deepak carried an ice cream as they boarded the car home, and ate it on the way back. When they reached home, everyone went to sleep, only to wake up to a bad stomach ache in the morning. Deepak’s father attributed it to the new car, his mom attributed it to eating food cooked in a hotel this month, his wife blamed the ice cream. The pain subsided in a few hours.

Deepak then left for the club, for his weekly game of squash. He picked up a bottle of juice to sip on the way back. As he sipped from the straw and started the car, a blast of hot air hit him. He then noticed he had accidentally turned the heater on. He smiled to himself, reset the climate control and started to drive. He went home and switched on the TV but in a few minutes, he held on to his stomach, in intense pain. 

                                                                                                                      ***

The next week was uneventful. There was no trouble with the car and Deepak was gushing with pride at his new possession. On Thursday, Deepak took his boss and a few colleagues for a spin in the new car. They stopped by for dinner and then some sweet paan. As Deepak dropped the last of his colleagues and parked his car, his phone rang.                                                                                                                                                                'Deepak, are you okay? I think something was wrong with the food. My stomach is aching.' It was his boss.The next day, all of his colleagues complained of stomach ache.

Why was everyone who boarded his car getting a stomach ache? Was this the reason the car came at a discount? Was this car jinxed? But nothing had happened during the week. 

Deepak was not at all looking forward to Saturday. His son wanted to show off the new car to his friends. Deepak was to take them to the theatre. At 11 AM, they all piled into the car. Deepak's heart was racing in fear. Six children in the car on a weekend and he would have to answer to their parents in case of any problems. He prayed to the Hanuman and the engine roared to life. The onward journey was uneventful. On the way back, they all carried cotton candy and hopped into the car. There was a fist fight for the passenger seat in the front. Deepak resolved the fight and the naughtiest kid, Swetha, was made to sit there. Swetha ripped off some cotton candy. 'Will you eat some sweet?' she asked, and went close to the Hanuman and excitedly offered it. Amidst the chaos and pressure, Deepak laughed and made her sit down. He dropped the children home. 

His son played all day. Fortunately, no one called complaining of a stomach ache. Maybe tomorrow morning, Deepak thought. Nothing happened then too. On Sunday, when he left for his squash game, Deepak offered the juice he was drinking to Hanuman. And from that day, he ensured Hanuman was never hangry. 

(Hangry : anger induced by hunger)

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Author
Nithya Rajagopal

Nithya Rajagopal

Written: 7 Stories

Member Since: 06-Jul-2018

Country: India

Category

Imagine