<Incoming Call – Unknown number>
“Hello. Am i speaking to Mr. Siddarth?”
“Yes. If it is about some credit card or loan, I don’t have time for it.”
“Oh its not and you better make time for this call if you are a loving husband and a caring father as your twitter profile suggests.”
“What? What did you say?”
“You heard it Siddarth. But, don’t worry. Neither your wife who works at Hexaware, nor your 9 year old son who studies at HLC are in any danger. ”
“Who the hell are you? How do you..”
“Listen Siddarth. I dont mean any harm to anyone. I just want you to do a specific set of tasks for me and that’s it. No one needs to get hurt.”
“What are you talking about. What has it got to do with me?”
“Calm down. Just listen to me. You will have your answers in time. For now, just keep in mind that when you receive calls from any unknown or new numbers, pick them up immediately. I’ll make it easy for you. You will get the call only between 10 am and 5 pm. I am sure you watch enough movies to understand that if you approach anyone or get any funny ideas, you will regret it. To make sure you understand this, we have given a package to your kid today. Its in his bag. Its meant for you.”
“No. Don’t you dare do that…Hello…Hello”
Siddarth tried calling the number, but the call wouldn’t go through. He checked the time. It was half past four in the afternoon. His son would have reached home by now. He called home. His mother answered the call. She said that Aryan was dropped at home at the usual time by the cab driver who picks and drops children in that society.
Siddarth immediately left to home and went straight to his sons bag. He did find a package in it.
“Aryan, did any one give this to you?”
“Yes dad. Some uncle gave it to me when i was returning from school.”
“Ok. Listen Aryan. If someone you don’t know is giving you anything. Don’t accept it. ok?”
Aryan gave a perfunctory nod and went back to watching cartoons. That is until he saw what was in the package that his dad just opened. Siddarth found a letter in the package among other things and was opening it. Aryan meanwhile picked up a whistle and started blowing it. There was an assortment of whistles, trumpets, piped organs, mouth organs and vuvuzelas in that package.
The letter read “A WRONG DOES NOT BECOME RIGHT JUST BECAUSE EVERY ONE ELSE IS DOING IT.”
Siddarth spent the rest of the evening wondering who sent the package and how they got to know about his son even while constantly admonishing his son to keep the sound down. He decided to keep the happenings of the day to himself. What good will come out of multiplying the number of people worrying. He managed to hide all other contents of the package but had to give a whistle to Aryan to keep him from creating a mess just before Sneha arrived. When Sneha lost her cool with the constant whistling of Aryan, she told Siddarth that he should not have bought that damn thing.
The next day Siddarth dropped his son at school and told him that he will come in the evening to pick him up. He was at the office trying hard to focus on the job at hand with one eye on his mobile when it started vibrating. Unknown Number calling.
“Hello. Am I talking to Mr. Siddarth?”
“Yes. Why are you doing this to me? Please..”
“Mr. Siddarth, I am calling from Axis Bank. We are offering you a Titanium Credit Card.”
“Not Interested. Don’t call me again” Siddarth yelled.
He waited for the phone call for the rest of the day and there was nothing.
His manager who was not very happy when he told him that he has to leave office early for the second consecutive day.
Siddarth couldn’t sleep that night. His mother and Sneha were fighting over dinner because Aryan went to sleep crying. Sneha came home late from work and was already stressed. She crashed on the sofa and said she wanted to relax for a while before she could move. Aryan was playing the mouth organ.
“Seriously Siddarth? Yesterday you bought him a whistle and today a mouth organ?”
“He likes it Sneha. When I was a kid I never had one. Let him enjoy it. He could become the next Rahman.”
“Come on Sid. Make his stop it. I have a severe headache.”
Aryan kept crying till he slept when Siddarth forcefully pulled the mouth organ and threw it on the attic. He didnt even have a proper dinner.
Siddarth was rolling in the bad. ‘Who could that be? Why didn’t he call me today? Was it just a prank by some friend? Should i tell Sneha? What will my boss think if I ask to leave early again this week? Can i trust the cab driver? But he has been driving the children of the society for more than 2 years and he has always been caring, honest and punctual. Should I change Aryan to another school? But they also mentioned Sneha. How the hell did they know all this?’
<Hello, it’s me
I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet
To go over everything….. Hello from the other side!!!>
‘Shit! Its 5-30 already. Oh Stop it Adele. I dont want to hear any Hellos. I should change my alarm.’
He constantly kept checking his mobile and started to relax when he didn’t get any call till half past 4. And then the mobile started vibrating.
“Its me Siddarth. Do you have a pen and paper to write down what I tell you?”
“I can write it on a notepad.”
“Good. No. 56, Ganapathy Street, Ramakrishnapuram, Chennai”
“Whose address is this?”
“That is exactly what I want you to find out. Find out the name of the man staying there, his phone number, his family details and anything that you can find about him. You have got time till Monday. ”
“But how will i get the phone number?”
“Check with the neighbors saying you got a package for him or check for the uncollected posts before they get home. You are a smart man Siddarth. You will find a way. Oh, by the way, did you think that picking your son yourself will keep him safe from us? Don’t be foolish. I told you no one needs to get hurt as long as you do what we ask you to do.”
Siddarth did manage to get the name and phone number. It was Sankaran. He was initially worried but then started thinking about the ways to get the name. He came up with a story for the neighbors. He thought he’d look for vehicles in the house and approach RTO office through some contact to get the details from there. He thought he would walk into the house, give a false Id and get their details claiming that he was looking for people living there before 10 years. And he thought of a 100 more ways he could do it.
Eventually, when he actually went to the house, he found a car and even as he was making a note of the number, a delivery guy from amazon just stopped by to deliver a package. He got him talking and made a mental note of the name and phone number from the package. He then went away and casually looked back when the door opened and Sankaran came out to collect the package.
Over the weekend, he spent a few hours on the internet looking up the full name and he was surprised how much information he managed to collect on Sankaran, his wife and his daughter. he then checked his own Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts and his entire life was staring back at him from the monitor. He realized, he had become so addicted to social media that he couldn’t remember anything important in his life that was not there for everyone to see.
It was Sunday night and it was almost a week since Siddarth had a good night’s sleep. ‘Why did they give the whistles to Aryan? Well, if it was to irritate me, its clearly working because I cant keep that boy away from the trunpets.
As expected, he got the call on Monday.
“Good job Siddarth. I am impressed.”
“Thanks. Is that how you got my information? Made someone follow me? But why? Please leave me alone. I have done what you asked me to do.”
“Its not over Siddarth. I will need you to do one more thing. Just another simple task and that will be the end of it. I will call you on Wednesday.”
‘Is the person calling me just a pawn? Is someone else making him do that? Does that mean that he wont harm my family even if I don’t follow through? If he is a pawn, how many such pawns are in operation? Who is the one moving the pawns? Have I also become a pawn in an endless game? But he said, Wednesday is the end of it. Will he ask me to call and threaten someone like he is doing to me? But what is the purpose of all this?’
Siddarth was not too worried now. But he could hardly sleep and was anxiously waiting for the next phone call.
A different number again and a bizarre order. The caller said he would confirm that Siddarth has actually done the job by Thursday before letting him go free.
And on Thursday at exactly 15-30, the phone started vibrating
“Siddarth. Is it done? Have you delivered the package full of garbage to Saran’s daughter?”
“Yes I have.”
“Have you packed that in a pop up box so that everything falls around as soon as it is opened?”
“Yes. Please tell me one thing. Why whistles and trumpets for me? What was it about?”
“On 24th of last month, on Gandhi Mandapam road, there was a lot of traffic and you chose to ride your bike on the footpath instead of waiting for the traffic to clear. As if that was not bad enough, you kept honking at the pedestrians to make way for you. Does that ring a bell?”
“So you were punishing me for what I had done that one time? Everyone was in a hurry to go to their offices. So was I. How can you threaten my family for such a small mistake? You are a monster.”
“There are no small mistakes Siddarth. Better understand that quickly before you get yourself in trouble again. I am just doing what I have to just like you did what you had to. I got my names, numbers and orders just like you got packages and deliveries. No one knows who started it, but I have come to accept that its good if the wheel keeps rolling. ”
“So what did Saran do? Throw garbage on the streets? But who is observing people and making the list?”
“Yes. All I know is that an empty Lays chip packet was thrown out of his car on some street. Your guess is as good as mine about who is observing such incidents, following the vehicles to their houses and noting the addresses. Good Bye Siddarth. Just make sure you don’t do anything stupid to get a call again.”
“Wait. What was your mistake? What are you being punished for?”
“Talking on my mobile phone in a cinema hall, apparently, in a very interesting scene”.