It is the fifth day today. And, she has still not turned up to her shop.

Five days ago, at nine in the night, I heard a huge commotion just out side my office. At the heart of the commotion stood two ladies, in their early thirties. They were yelling and accusing each other. A dozen small children watched the battle from the ringside.

The cause of the war:

The more sophisticated lady, a mother of two preteens, had accused - and whacked - the teenager son of the less-sophisticated other lady, the lady who ran a shop with her brother. Now, the second lady and her brother were up-in-arm against the other lady. "How dare you accuse my son?" this lady shouted. "It is the third time you have man-handled my son."

"Yes, I have. Because, he is a liar, a bully. He did his mischief for the third time, today," yelled back the other lady, the sophisticated one.

By now, a couple of her friends had come down to join the sophisticated lady.

"Did you see my son doing the mischief?" screamed the shop lady. "YOU are the liars; YOU are the bullies," attacked the brother.

"You idiot, mind your language. You have no right to talk to me like that," warned the cultured lady, pointing her finger like a sharp knife.

"And, what right you got to beat our child, insult him in front of other children?" asked both the sister and the brother who ran the shop.

"Insult? If he dares to do it, again, I will break his head, mind you," the unrelenting lady served the ultimatum.

I went to broker peace.

"Madam, can you solve the problem like this?" I asked the shop lady. "Please go inside," I told her agitated brother.

"First tell her to apologise to my son, then we will go inside," I was told.

"You fools, apologise? Where is he, I will do that with a thrashing?" the studied lady mocked.

"Now, ma'am, if you don't end it here, you are going to invite trouble for both of you. Please don't drag this matter far; don't further provoke," I advised.

"They are slum people; they don't know how to talk," the cultured lady threw down her gauntlet before her enemies.

Both brother and sister picked it up, right away, and went charging to the lady who had called them 'slum dogs' ...

I sensed trouble; and did not want to be a part of it. Quickly, I retreated to my office, and closed the door. Before the door closed, a resident told me, "Why should we involve, if they do not want a solution?"

That really made sense.

I did not bother to know what happened after that.

About half-an-hour later, I heard a bigger commotion, and peeped out. A police van had come, and the cops were shouting at the two parties, "Chalo baito; jo bolna hai, police station mein bolo."

By now, the shop people were joined by their one more brother and sister, while the sophisticated lady, besides her many lady friends, was joined by her husband. All had to rush to the spot, either from their offices or from their shops ... leaving behind their work.

I quietly closed my office, and went home.

The problem was not mine. And, no one wanted my solution, either.

The next day, some one told me, that after I had failed to broker peace between the two ladies, the cultured one had slapped hard the shop lady. And, before the men could exchange the blows, the blue van had come to take them all!

Now, the police cases have been slapped against each other. None of the sides is repenting. If at all there is any change, it is: they have become more hardened ... "to show each other".

Just yesterday, I bumped into the shop lady and her brother on my way. The lady's face still stood swollen, and she still looked agitated. "See sir, what that b...h has done to me," she showed me her face. "I am a divorcee; I am suffering from depression ... they very well know it. I had under gone an operation, they know it ... My son is helpless, they know it ... " she was going on and on.

"But, ma'am, what was basic problem, that started it all?" I asked, innocently.

And, I really did not know about it. The 'mischief'.

"She was lying, that my son had punctured her son's cycle ... and for the third time," she informed.

"Oh! I see." I sympathised.

All that we remember about the Great Second World War is: 'The Atom Bomb'! ...
and, that funny, little fellow called 'Hitler'!

Any body remembers any thing else?

Today, the 'mischief monger' was happily playing with all the other children, his friends. Suddenly, like a bolt from the blue sky, came this missile:

"Preetam, did I tell you not to play with that idiot? Come home, right now."

The war was far from over!



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