It was one of the most glorious sunrise, Alan Phillips Clement saw as he woke up to the twittering of the sparrows which had built a nest underneath the bedroom window ledge. Added to that, the cacophony of the crows on the marigold tree just outside his window was the best music and he loved the very sound of it. And this is how he gets up every day to the sound of the singing of the birds.
He looked on the bedroom window ledge, and found that the bird feed container and the water dish were full to the brim. Looking at the side table he found a stainless steel flask with a cup and saucer beside it. It was his morning coffee and his mother Pamela had kept it.
His bedroom is on the top floor of a two storied independent building situated in an old residential colony of Secunderabad which boasts of trees of over hundred years' old. The
house was built by his grandfather, Dr. John Clement a principal of St John's High School and it was done in the old colonial style, preferred by the British.
Alan, the eldest grandchild and favorite of his grand father has the same hobbies like gardening, collection of coins and stamps and is a voracious reader. Many a summer one can find both of them under the marigold tree, reading to their hearts' content. Alan has a younger sister, seventeen year old Tamara Priscilla, a final year high school student, who is also a bookworm like him.
It was because of his mother's meticulous habits and the way she adhered to the time that Alan could complete his engineering studies with distinction. Exactly one year back he had joined as a Management Trainee in the prestigious CE Heavy Electrical, a company situated about twenty kilometers away from the city on the highway to Bangalore. A campus recruit, Alan, would now be directly absorbed in the company's management cadre, a prospect he is looking forward eagerly.
The prospect of meeting his friends for an evening get together to celebrate his completion of one year excited him immensely.
His father Thomas Clement is a successful lawyer and his mother Pamela a house wife. She is a very religious woman who had brought her two children in the Christian way. It was prayer before going out for school or work and prayer and Bible reading in the evening and this had become an integral part of the family life. There were rare occasions where they missed attending the Church service.
Alan made his way to the dining table and found that his sister Tamara Priscilla was waiting for their mother. Usually his mother would be waiting, to serve breakfast, a family custom followed from their school days and later his father would join them after his morning walk.
"Where's mom?" he asked pulling a chair.
"She's at prayer."
The days menu was oats, pancakes, idli and sambar and the usual roti with vegetable stew. The time was 7.15 am and Alan usually has his breakfast before 7.40 am so that he could leisurely walk to the bus stop to catch the 7.50 am bus.
Completing their breakfast both the siblings wait for their mother to lead them in prayer as per the practice they meticulously follow.
It was nearing 7.40 am and Alan impatiently turns the pages of the Deccan Chronicle and glances at the headlines for the third time. Shaking his left hand vigorously at his sister he showed the wrist watch to his sister, who patiently replied, "She's at prayer."
"Why don't you go and have look?"
Priscilla comes back in no time, "As I told you, she's at prayer."
"Sis" explained Alan, "Something's wrong. Mom was never late. Tell her that I have left. I have to go otherwise I'll miss the bus."
"Brother wait a sec, she'll get angry"
It's true. She will get angry. It is an unwritten law that only after the family prayer one should step out of the house.
Alan never to read the editorial turns to the center page and gets immersed in it.
"Hi Children," And it was their mother!
Alan nearly jumped as he folded the newspaper and looked at his watch. It's 7.55 am.
"Oh Mom, you know today is an important day to me," Alan said loudly, "Now I have missed the bus and the second one is at 9. I don't know what to do."
"Alan I don't know what had happened," said his mom softly. "I had this empty feeling right after my early morning prayers. The feeling persisted and I knew that I had missed out something important, so I again started praying right after I prepared the breakfast."
There was silence except for the crows as they hungrily pecked at the left over food kept outside the kitchen window.
"Take a holiday today," advised his mother. "You can go in evening for your party."
Alan sulked as he never liked the idea of taking leave and that to when he had just completed one year.
The silence was deafening. Alan started reading the news paper again as Tamara got up to go to the college. The phone rang and as she was the nearest picked it up.
"Mom it's for you"
"Hello" answered his mother. "But but... he is here. Alan its Suresh."
With a big frown Alan walked over to the phone, and answered, "Oh my God! Is that so?"
Just then his father walked.
Disconnecting the phone, Alan said, "Dad the 7.50 bus had an accident. It was involved in a head on collision. Four were killed on the spot. And all were beyond recognition. Suresh thought I was on that bus."
There was this deafening silence as even the crows remained silent. Alan walking back to his seat sat down at the dining table.
"They heard the news at the factory," continued Alan, "Suresh was in the early morning shift at the factory and he thought I was killed."
"Why did he think so?" asked his mother, her voice breaking.
"Because as the bus was involved in a head on collision the entire right side was completely smashed. All the four which included the driver were killed as they were all sitting on the right side."
"But why did Suresh think that you were killed?" repeated his mother.
"Because as the bus starts from our place I am the first to sit exactly right behind the driver."
Victor Jasti lives in India and is passionate about writing short stories based on the Bible and real incidents. He also writes Christian fiction and poetry. Five of his poems were published in Temporal Currents compiled by an American author, Ms. Christine Tricarico.