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Papa caught on what was going on in our heads and the three of us convinced Aunt Aparna to let us have one of the pups as our own. I would have preferred Romeo but I knew Aunty would not part with him. Besides, how would I hide such a huge guy from Ma? A pup was okay. It would fit into the household and Ma would not even notice him. We had, of course, not reckoned the mysterious growth factor that takes a pup to within a couple of inches of its adult size in just a few months. Little Caesar began to inflate before our eyes and we knew that we would not be able to keep him out of Ma's range of vision.

What about Ravi? What was he meant to do? What could he do? He never got a break from his job. He delivered tiffins, ran errands and made a bit of money by helping Ganga halzuai at festival time. When Papa was well it was okay, but now, with money so tight, did he have the right to spend a portion on his own fees? Deepak tried to console him when he heard what Ravi had to report. But nothing helped. " Ravi sighed. " "All I know now is that my choice will be wrong. 'Painful' to be precise. " asked Deepak.

And they waved towards a cluster of rocks near them. I realized, with a kind of sick horror, that they had carted along our entire refreshment supply with them. And that too just when I was thirsting for a mouthful of that orange juice! I rose and slowly picked my way across a jumble of rocks till I reached a flattish boulder opposite where they were grouped. All had their backs to me; they were now busy aiming pebbles at a blackened tree-trunk on the far bank of the stream. 31 L I glanced down.

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