"I lost my red-stone necklace," Shweta announced as though it was a very natural thing to happen. Everyone sitting at the dining table was stunned. There was Mr Premdas, Shweta's father-in-law, his wife Pramila, Shweta's husband Arvind, his younger brother Anoop, and his younger sister Neha at the dining table.
Arvind got back his composure and said, "Shweta, how can you be so careless? It was given to you by my mother during the time of our marriage. When did you wear it last? Where did you keep it?"
Shweta said, "I wore it just two days ago for Anurag's engagement. You didn't come for the ceremony, as you were not in town. We come back so late in the night utterly tired. I removed it and left it on the dressing table. I totally forgot about it and went off to sleep. When I looked for it in the morning, it was just not there."
Everyone looked at each other. Anoop said, "Bhabhi! You mean to say that someone from our own house took it?"
Shweta looked at him and said, "Yes, that is what I mean." Everyone was silent.
When they were alone in their bedroom Arvind asked his wife, "Do you have any suspicion on someone?"
Shweta said, "It might be your younger brother Anoop. He must have got into some bad company again.'
Arvind was shocked. In one of his weak moments, Arvind had confided to his wife that during his college days Anoop had got into bad company. Over the years Anoop has become matured, quite focused on his career and was holding a responsible position in a reputed firm.
Arvind somehow felt protective of his younger brother, "Shweta, you cannot accuse someone just because he fell prey to bad habits long ago! What proof do you have?" Shweta did not answer. Arvind said, "Search for it once more – it must be somewhere in the room."
Shweta was the only daughter of her parents. When this proposal came from Arvind's parents she was totally against it. She was not sure, with her urbanised upbringing, whether she would fit into a joint family in Vadodara. Shweta's mother convinced her that Arvind's family was very good and that Arvind was a very nice boy – well mannered and easygoing. Shweta's mother, Kokila, felt that being living in joint family would teach her the value of having siblings in the house. When Shweta met Arvind, she immediately liked him. Once Arvind told her about Anoop's shady past during his college days and how the family had had a tough time, but he did not realise that Shweta developed some prejudice against Anoop. Within a few days she adjusted to the new surroundings, became friendly with everybody but maintained a distance from Anoop. Poor Anoop was quite puzzled about this but never had any arguments with her.
For the next two or three days, she saw the family discussing the theft and coming to the decision of lodging a complaint with the police. She stayed away from the matter altogether. Shweta was on could nine the next day as her pregnancy got confirmed and everyone started fussing over what she ate, how she exercised, and the episode of the stolen necklace faded from their minds.
The next morning, when she was busy in the kitchen preparing breakfast, Shweta heard a commotion in the sitting room. When she entered with the tea tray, she saw two policemen talking to her father-in-law. One of them was holding her necklace in his hand.
She asked him, "Where did you find? Who is the culprit?"
The policeman said, "Madam, it is your servant Govind who has stolen it. It is fortunate that Anoop baba lodged a complaint with us and also gave us a drawing of the necklace. We alerted Mumbai police and they kept a watch on all the jewellers. He was caught in Malad when he was trying to sell it in one of the shops there. Govind has confessed that he had picked it up from your dressing table when you were in a deep sleep."
Mr Premdas said, "Thank you, inspector. Govind has been with us for the past 30 years and such a thing never happened. He must have been really desperate."
Just then, Anoop entered. He said, "Inspector, just close the case. The necklace has been recovered. Govind kaka has been with us for so many years. Sometimes a man's necessity makes him a thief. Let us leave the matter now."
Later in the night, when Shweta was walking in the garden, she heard Anoop's voice, "Kaka, just forget it. I don't want to probe to find out why you did it. Take this money. You remember how I was also a victim of circumstances once? I can't forget how much moral support you gave me. You are like my father." Shweta was touched by this and repented of her opinions about Anoop. Later, she also apologised to Arvind.
Some months passed, and it was a rainy day. No one but Shweta and Anoop were at home. Shweta was walking inside the house as the weather outside was bad. Suddenly, she felt cramps and pains. She felt helpless. She went to Anoop's room, knocked on the door and cried out, "Anoop, are you there? Please take me to the hospital. I am feeling very uneasy."
Anoop opened the door and said, "Bhabhi, just sit down and relax. I shall get ready in a minute." Anoop came back with the car keys and said, "Bhabhi, be careful! Hold my hand and walk slowly as it is slippery outside." He drove carefully and they were at the hospital within 20 minutes. Dr Srinivasan was waiting outside as Anoop had phoned and explained the problem to him.
Anoop started ringing up everyone – Arvind, Neha, Shweta's parents in Mumbai. Everyone was at the hospital by night. The doctor came out around three o'clock in the morning and said, "It is a baby boy. Shweta is fine. You can go in and see her."
Everyone was relieved. They went in to see the mother and the child. Shweta was so happy to see her parents. She cried out, "Mom! Dad! When did you come? Who informed you?"
"We came along with Arvind. Anoop has informed all of us."
Shweta felt quite awkward. She looked at Anoop and said, "Thank you, Anoop."
Anoop was cheerful as usual. "Bhabhi, just relax. You need rest."
In the next few days, Shweta saw a different Anoop. He showed his concern in every possible way.
When they were alone, Shweta told her mom, "Now I understand what you meant by relationships in a joint family. I feel so ashamed."
Her mother said, "Shweta, I am so happy that you have realised the true worth of your family. Relationships are very important in life. Forget the past and now nurture this relationship with care."
Shweta decided to do just that from the next day. The next day when Anoop came to visit her, she said, "Anoop, I am so ashamed of myself. After my marriage, I have always been rude to you, but you have always cared for me. I am so sorry."
"Bhabhi, just forget it. There is no sorry between us. You took on some time to understand me. It does not matter. Now we can be friends forever. Let us both move on." She was quite touched by his words and put her hands on his.