Radhika D Shyam

The modakas were untouched, so were the chaklis but where had the ladoos vanished? Riddhi, Siddhi and Rakesh looked askance at Ganesha

The house wore a festive look and the twins, Riddhi and Siddhi, were all excited. They looked forward to the nine days that would follow the main Ganesha festival. Their grandmother being a staunch devotee of the elephant god, it was a festival they celebrated in a grand manner.

There would be yummy goodies to relish, relatives and friends who would come visiting every day, and interesting stories of Ganesha that their grandmother would enthrall them with. And to top it all, there was a competition in their housing society for the best idol display. They were sure of winning the grand prize as their parents had got them a beautiful clay idol, which they painted with vegetable dyes.

Now that the festival was actually here, the girls were having a great deal of fun. They went to bed weary from all the excitement and slept soundly.
During the next morning’s puja however, their grandmother noticed that the bowl of ladoos looked different. On closer inspection, she discovered that there were only 10 ladoos in the bowl. She clearly remembered putting 11 ladoos into it the previous evening. She looked around and said to no one in particular, “Please don’t snack on sweets offered to the deity. You will get to enjoy your share after the aarti…”

Even before she finished her sentence, several pairs of eyes swivelled and fixed themselves on the twins and their older brother Rakesh! The kids in turn looked pointedly at their father, who had a sweeth tooth and couldn’t fight the temptation of popping a burfi or two into his mouth after every meal! They wondered why kids automatically figured on the list of suspects when adults were equally capable of gobbling up tasty tidbits!

Grandma’s stern warning didn’t deter the ladoo thief. On the third day, she found that 11 chaklis and 11 modakas — offered as prasadam— were intact, but one single ladoo had gone missing yet again!

Every night, the twins, Rakesh and their parents took turns to sleep in front of the idol. When it was Rakesh’s turn, Grandma told him to be extra alert and look out for the ladoo thief. But yet again, the ladoo-loving thief turned out to be smarter than everyone else.
When Gangamma, the maid, heard about the missing ladoos, she exclaimed, “Ganesha has been coming to your house to eat the ladoos! You are all truly blessed!”

Riddhi’s mother dismissed the thought. But the mystery troubled everyone and they decided to be extra watchful.

Two more nights of vigil yielded no clue and what’s more, the ladoos continued to disappear! The incident became the talk of the housing society and the neighbourhood and people began queueing up to see the ladoo-eating Ganesha.

Finally, Rakesh came up with a brilliant idea. He borrowed a CCTV camera from a friend. He installed it in the puja room so as to focus on the bowl of ladoos and the area around it. He didn’t forget to leave a light on – a light just bright enough to capture the action.
The next morning, yet another lone ladoo had done the disappearing act!

After the aarti, the whole family gathered to see the footage that had been recorded. What they saw left them amazed, astonished, astounded and amused! A tiny mouse had sneaked in through the ventilator, skidded down the wall, reached the bowl with the ladoos and nudged a ladoo out with his quivering nose. He had then picked it up using his forepaws and scooted through the ventilator.

Gangamma, who was watching the scene unfold with an increasing sense of wonder, shrieked, “Wah! Who can take the ladoo to Ganesha but his very own vahana —  the mouse?!”

“Mooshika, in Sanskrit,” Grandma said. And everyone burst out laughing.
Mom telephoned the doctor because she was worried about food contamination!
But it was Gangamma, who had the last word. “The house is so clean that we don’t even see the occasional cockroach, so how has a mouse come visiting and that too at this time of year? There’s more to this than meets the eye,” she declared and prostrated before the smiling idol.