Digital Dimdima



It was a cool, cloudy day and the students of St. Carmel were enjoying their recess in the big playground. But two thirteen-year-old boys were not among them. They were sitting on the stairs, catching their breath after a long race. "What do we have after break, Tiku," asked the taller of the two, named Vinu. Tilak, whom everyone called Tiku, made a wry face and replied, "I think it's maths- ugh!" Vinu's face reflected the sentiment. He opened his mouth to say something when Sonia came running towards them, tears streaming down her cheeks. She flung herself down next to them and wailed, "My new umbrella- it's lost! It was there in my bag this morning; but now, when I went to keep my lunch box, it was gone! I looked everywhere, but couldn't find it. Oh, what should I do? It was so expensive!" The boys listened to her in silence and finally Vinu said, "Calm down Sonia. I think you should go to Principal Mehta. She will find the thief."
"You mean s-someone s-stole it?" asked Sonia wide-eyed. "It's quite obvious- the umbrella couldn't simply walk out of your bag. You'd better go to the Principal fast", said Vinu quietly.
"No", shouted Tiku suddenly, "Don't go just yet!" Sonia and Vinu stared at him in surprise. Oblivious to their looks, he continued, "You know this is a great chance for us. We can team up and find the thief, just like real detectives do."
Vinu laughed, "Tiku, you've been watching too many movies! What an absurd idea!" Tiku flushed but said steadily, "No, it's not. Think about it- we will call ourselves O.D.D.- Outstandingly Daring Detectives, and we will be the best." Vinu and Sonia looked skeptical. After much coaxing and begging, they agreed to give it a try.
Sonia said forlornly, "But what if we don't succeed?"
"Then we'll go to the Principal", said Vinu firmly, "For now, we should begin investigating. Let's split up and ask everyone if they saw anything suspicious during lunch-time."
After half-an-hour of interrogating their classmates, all three friends met in the classroom. The boys looked glum but Sonia looked excited. "I think I know who the thief is", she announced, "One of the girls told me that she saw Raaghav sneaking out of the class sometime ago carrying an umbrella." Tiku exclaimed, "Raaghav- the new boy? But he seems nice- why would he do that?" Vinu nodded and said, "Besides, we have no real proof that it was your umbrella he was carrying."
"Then there's only one way to find out", said Sonia determinedly, "Let's follow him after school." The boys agreed readily. So, after school they found themselves trailing a few yards behind Raaghav, who, unaware that he was being followed, was walking at a leisurely pace.
"Why doesn't he hurry up? I'm hungry", muttered Tiku. Vinu gave him a dark look and he fell silent again.
After what seemed like hours to Tiku's stomach, Raaghav entered an untidy-looking hut. "Quick! Let's find some window where we can keep an eye on him", ordered Vinu. They inched along against the wall of the hut until they found an open window. They crouched below it, keeping their eyes and ears open for everything.
Suddenly, Raaghav's voice squealed, "No uncle! Please don't make me steal anymore- I don't like it." A gruff voice, probably his uncle's, said coldly, "Boy! You know what will happen if you don't do as I tell you." Tiku peeped inside and saw Raaghav cringing in a corner begging, "No uncle-please don't do that!" "Then you will do as I say", snarled his uncle, "Now empty your pockets, boy!" Raaghav miserably handed over some money and Sonia's umbrella. His uncle took them greedily and said, "Now go to your room boy- and don't make a sound!" As Raaghav walked out of the room dejectedly, the three sleuths looked at each other feeling sorry for him. They trudged home in subdued silence.
The next morning Vinu, Sonia and Tiku cornered Raaghav before class. Vinu said bluntly, "Raaghav, we know you stole Sonia's umbrella yesterday and followed you home. It seems you are in trouble. We are O.D.D.- Outstandingly Daring Detectives, maybe we can help you if you tell us everything."
At first, Raaghav looked stunned, then his face crumbled and he started to cry. Tiku put a comforting arm around him while Sonia murmured words of sympathy. After his sobs had subsided, Raaghav said, "My father passed away a year ago. We were poor and my mom fell ill. So, she sent me to uncle to continue my education. Uncle pays her hospital bills and my school fees. But he says he won't do it for free and makes me steal for him. We never stay in one place for long-so no one can catch us. When I protest, he threatens to stop paying for my mom's treatment. I don't know what to do."
"Don't worry," said Sonia soothingly, "Leave it to us now."
They went to Principal Mehta and related everything. She was an old lady with a stern face but kind eyes. She listened patiently and finally said, "Now you all go to class. I'll see what is to be done."
After an hour all of them, including Raaghav, were summoned to the Principal's office, where they met a tall, kind man named Inspector Patel. He addressed Sonia, Tiku and Vinu, "I just found out from your Principal that you are detectives. Well, thank you for your help in nabbing this criminal- he is wanted in several cases." He watched amused as the sleuths flushed and nodded.
"As for Raaghav", said the Principal, "I have made arrangements for you to stay in our hostel. Your mother's treatment will be handled by the school board." Raaghav's eyes filled with grateful tears and he couldn't speak.
"And here's your umbrella, young lady", said Inspector Patel, handing it to Sonia, who looked pleased.
When they were outside the office, Raaghav said emotionally, "Thank you so much. I owe all this to you." Tiku smiled and clapped Raaghav on the back, "It's no big deal. Remember, whenever you need help, O.D.D. is always here for you."

Dolly Pahlajani

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