Ambu mami & the vanishing baby

Ambujam was kneading the dough absentmindedly to make chapatis for dinner, enthralled by the new programme in DD channel which featured songs from new movie releases. This was quite in contrast to the boring agricultural programmes that it usually ran.

Ambujam strangely missed Pankaja’s incessant chatter which had proved so irksome in the past. Ever since Pankaja’s had given birth to her son seven months ago, her visits had dwindled to once in a fortnight even though she stayed next door. The charms of her infant son and the extra child care duties were keeping her busy.

Ambujam had taken to dropping by Pankaja’s home once a week. The baby was the delight of the neighbourhood and took after his mother in attention seeking behaviour. Ambujam always felt a frisson of pleasure when the tiny boy pulled the small playthings she fashioned out of bamboo and soft wood for him, enthusiastically out of her hands.

As she got up to switch off the TV set, she had a surprise visitor. The enquiring face of the tiny boy emerged from the doorway and judging by the state of his knees, had crawled through the large holes in the fence separating both their houses. Pankaja’s came barrelling in, in a minute.

She said rather shamefacedly – “I saw him crawling through, Ambu mami. “

“You ought to take better care of him.”

*************************************

It was three days later that Ambujam heard the wails from next door. Hurriedly dropping her knitting, she rushed into Pankaja’s house.

Pankaja was clearly distraught surrounded by a group of well meaning, gossipy neighbourhood ladies.

“What happened?”

“Pankaja’s baby has vanished.”

“Don’t be silly. He is such a little fellow. Where could he have gone? He must have crawled somewhere nearby.”

“Pankaja has been searching for him for the past two hours. He is nowhere to be found. All of us searched the entire street. Vishnupriya was just coming to check your house. “

************************************,

The entire village was moved by the tale of the missing child. Farm workers left the fields, post office closed and even Cheta whose shop was known never to close even for a sick day shuttered for the day and spread out to search.

It was in the evening that the strange reports started coming in first.

Rasu, a strong farm lad in his Twenties broke it first.

“Ambu mami, Ambu mami. I saw the child.”

Everyone perked up. Pankaja mopped up her tears and looked up expectantly.

Ambujam eagerly asked for more information.

” In the mango orchard, he was crawling happily but when I went closer he vanished!”

“What do you mean?”

“Just that… It’s the devil!”

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To be continued…..

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Read the earlier Ambu mami episodes in the below links:

Story 3

Story 2

Story 1

 

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