Hurray, summer holidays are here. Yes it is very hot, but with the schools closed its time for fun for kids. It’s time for seasonal evening fun fares and summer activities. Roller coasters, giant wheels and merry go rounds are sure inviting. And of course, it’s time for our yummy fruits and ice-creams☺. At one such temporary summer fair, children were running around with sugar candies. Some were spell bound watching a parade. And then there was this naughty eight year old throwing a tantrum. He was shouting at the top of his voice, “I want Falooda.” Sweet kind lady tries her best to calm him down. “Dear Akhil, my sweety, you are still on antibiotics. I am afraid you’ll start coughing again.” Akhil frowns back and shouts at the top of his voice, “I have been drinking hot water for weeks. I don’t have fever now. I have taken all bitter medicines, now it is time for a treat. I can’t take …” Before he could complete his statement he starts coughing. His mom pours some hot water from the flask and hands it to Akhil to sooth his cough. Akhil pushes it aside and points towards the Falooda stall. Angry mom draws Akhil close to her. Once he stops coughing she takes a deep breath and announces in a stern voice, “Do not interrupt and listen to me carefully. We came here to buy bangles for your aunty. Now, if you promise me not to drink falooda until you get your doctor’s approval, I’ll buy it for you. Otherwise, I won’t wait for your dad to pick us up from here. One more squeak from you and we are leaving in a taxi.” Akhil questions, “when will you call the doctor uncle?” Mom sighs in relief. “First we’ll purchase bangles. Then just before leaving the exhibition I’ll purchase your drink. Then I’ll call the doctor on reaching home. Is it clear?” Akhil agrees. He keeps staring back at falooda stall with a long face as his mom drags him towards bangle stalls.
Akhil hated everything about shopping. As his mom checks the bangles he kept lamenting. “Mama it’s boring. Let’s go to the play area.” His mom replies, “Just few more minutes.” He tries to entertain himself by tossing a few bangles but the shopkeeper won’t allow it. Bored and upset Akhil hugs his mom and pleads, “Can I at least stand outside this crowded shop and look at the things going around? Please.” His mom denies his request, “You could get lost.” He shrugs his shoulders, rolls his eyes and replies persuading, “I am not a baby. I’ll stay by the shop” His mom smiles and adjusts his hair. He moves back in denial stating, “mooooommmm..” Then she looks at him with deep thought and says just what he wished to hear, “You may stay outside.” Akhil jumps high shouting ‘ahhhh!’ Just when he is to run out his mom calls him. She looks at him as though she could never see him again and warns, “Please be careful. Don’t stroll away.” Akhil hastely replies, “Okay!” He runs out.
Now, all he could see was Ice-cream vendors and kids purchasing pop sticks. His thoughts wander back to Falooda. He looks down in disappointment. He sees a beautiful white Persian cat with fluffy tail and blue eyes. He tries to touch it but it runs to a kind man standing few feet away from him. He smiles at Akhil. Akhil smiles back. The handsome hip looking man picks up the cat and walks a few steps towards Akhil. He leans on the wall next to him and asks politely, “Do you love cats? She loves being stroked would you like to pat her?” Akhil quickly moves close to the man and gently strokes the cat. The cat appears to enjoy Akil’s company. The man compliments, “Hey! You are a professional. Cats just seem to love you. You must be Mahir – the talented.” Akhil blushes and replies amidst giggles, “Nah, I’m Akhil. We have lots of cats at my grandma’s place. She too thinks cats love me. Uncle, I’ve never seen such a beautiful cat with a nice fluffy tail.” Akhil’s new found pal raises his eyebrows in astonishment. “Dude, you almost guessed her name too?” Akhil exclaims, “Fluffy?” His uncle just nods in affirmation. Akhil giggles more. Uncle looks straight into Akhil eyes and says in soft voice. “Fluffy has four little kittens. And, I’m looking for someone to take care of them. Do you know someone who would love to have a kitten?” Akhil opens his eyes wide and questions, “Are they as cute as her?” Cool uncle winks at Akhil and states, “They are cuter!” Akhil questions doubtfully, “Uncle, can I have one kitten?” Uncle stops smiling. He thinks hard for few seconds. Then he questions, “Will you take good care of the kitten?” Akhil nods. Uncle proclaims, “I can’t find a better caretaker for the kitten. Come along and choose a kitten.” Akhil jumps with joy. He peeps into the shop searching for his mom. She was busy checking the bangles. Uncle suggests, “Just surprise your mom with a lovely kitten. She’ll adore it. Let’s be quick. Your kitten is waiting. Hop along.” Uncle wraps fluffy in a dark cloth and starts walking briskly. Akhil joins him.
The kittens were not all that close. Now Akhil was back to the falooda shop. Akhil was worried his mom would be angry. He questions, “Uncle, how far are the kittens? My mom will be worried. I need to go back.” Uncle says politely, “we are very close.” Then he shifts Akhil’s focus to falooda. He buys one drink and hands it to Akhil, “It’s the least I can do for offering to take care of a kitten.” Akhil was too tempted to say no. He sips ultra-cold falooda as he walks with the uncle. Then, they stand by a corner as a noisy parade walks through. People were looking at the mascots in the parade. As soon as Akhil completes his drink, his uncle takes him inside a thin path between two closed shops. Akhil raises his voice amidst noise to be heard, “Uncle are kittens here?” Within a blink of an eye someone covers him with a blanket and carries him into a closed shop!
What had just happened? Has Akhil been kidnapped? He struggles hard but can’t break loose. Within seconds he is dropped down. He throws the blanket away and tries to crawl away. But, there is no open door or window. The room was poorly lit. Akhil could hardly see anything. He pulls himself up and runs to the closest wall and bangs on it. He knocks on the walls and shouts as loud as he can only to end up coughing. Cold drink had made his sore throat worst! He just couldn’t be heard. The huge scary looking man who had grabbed him slaps him hard and signals him to be quiet. Akhil moves back in fear. He stumbles and falls down. He turns to see that he has stumbled against an unconscious kid. He lay next to the poor kid, not knowing what to do. He is too scared to shout. He starts feeling strange and was seeing doubles. The huge scary looking man looks at his handsome uncle and comments, “Jay, this boy is cute.” Uncle Jay chuckles, “Sandy, he is also foolish. He didn’t even bother to ask my name. It was very easy fetching him here. I have drugged his drink, he’ll sleep soon.” Akhil realizes why the falooda tasted strange. The drug was overpowering. He snuggles next to the sleeping kid and mourns. Jay picks his cat up and announces Sandy, “It is time for the next catch. Stay by the door.” Sandy nods.
Akhil regrets to have forgotten all about his mom’s warning. His mom had always been right. How mean he had been to her. Still, she was always nice to him. He wonders, what will happen to him. Will he ever meet his mom again? Who could save him now? He recollects a dua his mom used to say, “ Hasbi Allaah laa illaha illa huwa ‘alayhi tawwakaltu wa huwa rabb al-‘arsh il-‘azeem ”
Only Allah could turn any situation right. He mutters this dua. Once he completes reciting he feels his stomach turn. Now he knew, his medicines and the fallooda were not meant to be eaten together. He vomits. Sandy mistakes it to be cough. Having vomited Akhil feels a bit better. He prays for an opportunity to escape.
He struggles to remain awake in spite of seeing doubles. He didn’t have to wait long. As soon as Sandy opens the door to grab a new kid Akhil quickly breaks free. Sandy and Jay couldn’t risk leaving the new kid free to catch him. Akhil drags himself as far as he can. He tries to attract attention but just can’t call out for help. People were too engrossed in the parade activities to pay attention to a boy in distress. Being weak he can’t move any further. He could see Jay cutting through the crowd in search of him. Akhil quickly hides behind an advertising banner. He peeps through the hole in the banner to check on Jay. He closes his eyes and prays, “Yah Allah, I am sorry I have been a bad boy. I promise to be good to my parents. Please, please, please take me back to my mom. Only You can help me.” He opens his eyes to see his mom a few stalls away. She was crying and shouting out his name. Not many seemed to notice her amidst the entertainment. She enquired to people as to whether they had seen a small boy. They hadn’t. Oh! How he wished he could run to her. Alas, he didn’t even have energy to drag himself. The drug was having an effect on him. He tries to shout but all he could hear was a croak. Tears stream down his eyes. He could do nothing. Will it be the last time he’ll ever see her?
Just then he feels a hand on his shoulder. He feels chills run down his spine. He turns around to meet his worst fear. Yes! It was angry Jay. He mumbled, “You naughty brat! Did you really think you had a chance? Had you not vomited you would have slept by now. Now, I’ll make you regret for all that you did.” Akhil feels his head spin. He prays, “Allah save me and make him regret. Let them not do this another child.” Jay, throws a blanket on him to carry him. Akhil is too sleepy to fight. Just as he is about to doze away he hears his father confront Jay, “Hey you, where are you carrying my son?” Akhil is not sure whether it is a dream or truth.
He wakes up a day later to find himself in a hospital. Next to him is his sobbing mom. With a big sigh he utters in relief – Alhamdhulillah. Mom is happy to see Akhil regain conscious and kisses him. Akhil cries and pleads, “I’m sorry mom, I’ll never disobey you.” Mom hugs him and asks him to take rest. Few minutes later his father joins him. Akhil hugs him and thanks him for saving him. Dad shows him a newspaper cutting stating, “ ’A bold boy outwits kidnapers.’ ‘Thanks to a child- City is safe’ ‘Smart kid saves the day’ ‘Notorios Jay and Sandy behind bars” Akhil questions, “what happened to other kids?” Dad assures, “Don’t worry; they are safe with their parents. Oh Akhil! You astonish me. Please, avoid trouble in future. Don’t trust strangers. It’s only by Allah’s mercy that you are here with us.”
He sure had no intention of facing such a situation again. Be alert!