“Let’s just take the picture!” Prachi whispered hurriedly as we heard the lady of the house finish off her telephone conversation.
I shook my head and pointed at the empty space on the wall, where the picture had been. It looked as though the picture hadn’t been moved in a long time. The wall around the picture had faded, leaving a clear indication of where the picture had been. Taking it was not an option.
I barely managed to put it back as the lady entered the room. She paused as she saw us fiddling with her treasured pictures. She glanced suspiciously at the pictures and then back at us.
“We were just admiring the pictures.” I explained, “Are these pictures of your family?”
She gave in a little and smiled, “My husband’s side of the family. They grew up here.”
“Oh, how nice.” I said politely. Somehow, I had to ask her about that picture.
“Where was this picture taken? Such a pretty place..” I selected a random picture and commented, in an attempt to draw her out.
She came closer, to take better look.
“Ah.. That picture, I think it was taken near Monkey Point. That’s a tourist spot on the outskirts. You should go there. The view from there is spectacular.”
I nodded, feigning interest. “And this one?” I selected some other picture with the same boys playing around.
She threw her head back and laughed, “That’s my husband and his brother. Must have been taken somewhere in the city only. Wait, let me ask my mother-in-law.” She took the picture from the wall and rushed inside.
I looked up at Prachi. A mother-in-law?! Maybe she knew my family! I had to get introduced to her!
Prachi was scanning the other pictures. I guess she was hoping to find another picture with me in it. But I wasn’t too hopeful.
“Prachi!” I hissed. “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what? I stopped listening after monkey point, why don’t you just ask her directly?” She turned towards me with a bored expression.
“Her mother-in-law is here! Maybe she knew something. I have to talk to her!” I said excitedly. Before the words were out of my mouth, I heard some sounds coming from the room inside.
“She doesn’t really feel like talking right now.” The lady, coming out of the room, said apologetically.
“Oh, I understand.” I said. I was racking my brains trying to figure out a way to get meet her mother-in-law when the doorbell rang.
Prachi groaned inwardly. “The vultures have arrived.” She whispered in my ears.
Mrs. Gurung and her band of friends had arrived. She greeted me warmly and then introduced me to all her friends. I pretended to pay attention as Mrs. Gurung passed me little tit-bits about her friends, but my mind was completely preoccupied.
“This girl,” Mrs. Gurung was saying, “Has travelled all the way from Bangalore, all alone, just to find her parents.” I felt all eyes turn towards me. I smiled awkwardly.
“Now, that’s not true. My sister’s here.” I turned towards where Prachi had been sitting a few moments ago.
She had disappeared.