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THE STRANGERS
Yashwant Chittal
       THE ritual of morning tea being over, Ramakrishna and Janaki were in a cheerful mood when they came into the balcony outside their room. Today, tomorrow and the day after three holidays, one following the other. Over the past few days, guests had arrived one after another and they had been worn out playing host. They wanted to spend the next three holidays joyously. They had even chalked out a small programme the previous night.
       The vista from the balcony of their third floor room was a familiar one. The big black tar road which stretched on in front of the building; many smaller roads branching out from this main road; compounds surrounded by six-foot high walls on either side. Ugly buildings of various heights built without any particular plan-as if they had sprung by themselves ...Right in the middle, rising above them, the tall and imposing clock tower ...Here and there, coconut palms which had managed to survive. Gulmohar trees which didn't blossom. What was there to see in them? Nevertheless, in their present joyful mood, they felt an excess of affection for them. The incessant movement of vehicles on the road, the activity of people, seemed very dear--congenial without reason. A big steamroller which had arrived to repair a part of the road was rolling backwards and forwards noisily. Even its jarring chugs seemed pleasant to their ears.
       Then, all of a sudden, Janaki said anxiously, "They are coming to us." Her eyes full of anguish were searching for someone or something at the end of a distant street. These meaningless words of hers sounding like someone jabbering in her sleep, had broken into Ramakrishna's sweet dreams.
       "Who's coming to us?" he asked, his irritation obvious in his voice. "Haven't you shaken off your sleep yet?"
       Even Janaki wasn't quite sure she was really awake. For sometime, she did not utter a single word. She looked again at the criss crossing roads. She had seen them just a minute earlier. Where could they have disappeared to? Was she just seeing things, she wondered. For quite some time, she couldn't spot anyone. She felt relieved somehow. But the feeling didn't last for long. The very next minute a low scream escaped her. "Look! I can see them now."
                                       

    

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