It all happened during the recent wedding of one of my nieces.
In my post ‘The Daughter-in-law’ dated 21.07.2013, i have narrated how our daughter-in-law entered our house. It was the daughter of this daughter-in-law. She had a baby, a little more than six months ago. She had stayed with us for about a month after she joined our family and then had left with her newly-acquired husband for his place of work. She came back to have her baby here, stayed with us for about a month after that and they had left for Bhopal again. She recently visited us again, with the infant, and stayed with us for about two months. The marriage of this niece of mine was solemnized during this period.
The incident happened during the marriage-reception. When the wife, the daughter-in-law and i started for the venue of the reception, i was entrusted with the pleasant task of holding, taking care and being in charge of the baby’s safety.
At the reception everything started off well. The baby was very comfortable with me. When the time for the photo-session came, the bride wished to hold the baby and be photographed with her. Then almost every member of my extended large family wished to be photographed holding her. Seemingly, the baby enjoyed the attention she received and indeed became the centre of attraction. She seems to be of very social nature and is very comfortable with everybody and even with perfect strangers to her.
After the family photo-session, the ladies started their talkathon sessions and the baby was returned to me. I moved around with her to meet the guests and acquaintances. They played with her and she responded warmly.
Then the time for me to partake of feast came. I handed the baby to one of my nephews, telling him to continue holding her till i take her back and not to hand her to anybody else. Since it was a fairly large area with a large number of guests, i told him to be at that spot only and not move to some other spot, so that i could come and take her back after having dinner.
When i came back to the spot, there was no trace of either the nephew or the baby! So i moved on in search of them and after quite some time, could locate the nephew but he was alone! When i asked him about the whereabouts of the baby he stared at me blankly and said that a relative had taken her from him. After further search, i could locate this relative but the baby was not with her! She told me that someone had taken the baby from her. She did not remember who had taken the baby! So, i started my wild-goose-chase again but without success. I became a little desperate. So i asked all our relatives whomsoever i could find, and enquired whether he/she had seen the baby. Some said “Yes” and some said “No”. I hoped that she would cry, or at least whimper so that i would know where she was but no baby-cry came from any corner. I was losing my nerve.
I asked the baby’s mother, my wife and some relatives to join me in the Great Search.
The baby’s mother was hopeful that she would be somewhere there but my wife, the Great Worrier that she is, was restless. She heaped on me all the epithets about how careless and negligent i was. I started sharing her worry that someone might have removed the bracelets of gold and the anklets of silver that we had put on the baby. The wife started even worrying that some child-lifter must have entered the venue and would have kidnapped her. And she went on to wail that the kidnapper would ask for ransom!
I went on rebuking the nephew whom i had handed over the baby and he bore all my barking silently.
The army of searchers for the baby had spread over almost the whole area of the venue. Often we would run into each other during our Operation Baby-Search and ask each other the same question.
Then, at long last, i got a glimpse of the baby from a distance. I heaved a silent sigh of relief and ran like an Olympic athlete – a short distance runner – to the spot and almost snatched the baby from a perfect stranger. She cast a queer look at me. Of course, i recovered my composure immediately, apologized and explained how we had been desperately searching for the ‘lost’ baby. Thankfully, she understood and responded with a smile.
I looked at the wrists and the ankles of the baby. The bracelets and the anklets were sitting there, safe.
The baby’s mother was happy at my success in retrieving her but the grandmother was still in her angry worst! She kept on raving and ranting about how undependable, negligent, careless, and untrustworthy and whatnot i was!
The baby rewarded me with a smile which seemed to me as a little mischievous.