“Come along Rajani, come and eat something.” Kirti whisked her away before Biji got annoyed or Rajani overstepped some other invisible line.
“I am sorry Aunty for being such a bother.” Rajani apologized abjectly and sincerely. “Sorry Aunty.”
“Yes, yes, it’s okay dear.” Kirti smiled and patted her. “Now forget all that and drink some cool milk or would you like some lassi?”
“Lassi please. Sorry Badi Ammi. Sorry Chotti Ammi.” Rajani held her ears and apologized abjectly. “Shikha. I am sorry. I am really sorry. I hope you don’t hate me now?” she asked anxiously.
Shikha shook her head, smiling from ear to ear.
“Thank you Shikha. I am sorry. Really sorry. Aunty please forgive me.” She again apologized as Kirti handed her a glass of lassi. “I am sorry…”
“Okay okay, fine dear,” Kirti laughed, “now come on drink up the lassi.”
Rajani obediently drank some. But she soon put down the glass. “Aunty,” she was ready to begin her litany again.
“Rajjiii,” Shikha called.
“What?” she turned.
“You forgot to apologize to that tree, that chair, Biji’s hookah…”
“Shikhhaaaa,” Rajani shrieked and ran after her – glass in hand.
“Rajani!” Kirti instantly called shooting an apprehensive look at Biji.
But Biji wore a benign expression and looked at the girls running circles around her chair with an indulgent eye. “Okay, okay enough girls.” Her tone too was soft. “Come on now, drink up your lassi girl, I don’t want to have a lassi bath now.” She called over the din the girls were making.
Rajani stopped, Shikha didn’t; she crashed into Rajani’s back with a shriek. The glass of lassi went flying and drenched them both. Luckily Biji was spared – perhaps a drop or two. Sudden silence descended in the courtyard. The other ladies of the house came running out of the kitchen. Horrified and shocked at the scene, they stared apprehensively at Biji. She glared at the unfortunate girls – Shikha froze. But Rajani was blissfully unaware for she was busy with the uncontrollable giggles that bubbled up her throat and choked her. She stood there dripping wet, swaying about giggling quite hysterically. The boys entered just then and burst out laughing.
Biji frowned ferociously but her lips twitched. After a brief battle, she admitted defeat. She slapped her thigh and joined the merriment. The ladies of the house burst into raucous laughter, mostly of relief.
Kirti shook her head and called up Nisha who she knew would be worried. “Nisha,” she laughed, “here talk to your daughter,” she held the phone to Rajani’s ear, “Mamma!” Rajani gasped through her laughter, “Mammaaa!” she couldn’t say much more than that.
Kirti took back her phone, “Did you hear Rajani, Nisha? She is too busy laughing to talk to you right now!”
“Really?” Nisha asked eagerly.
“Yes of course. Would I lie to you? She is fine. Now stop worrying. You can call up later and talk to her if you like.”
“Thank you, thank you so much Kirti. You really are a treasure. I am sorry, I am really sorry that Rani has been such a bother.” Nisha blabbered in relief and would have continued but Nisha interrupted her. “Like mother like daughter! Just relax. It’s all fine now. Bye.”
“What happened?” Suryakant had put his paper down. Nisha rushed to him and sat down beside him all smiles and tears. “That was Kirti. She made me talk to Rani.”
“So what did Rani say?”
Nisha laughed. “Nothing! She was laughing so hard, she couldn’t say anything more than Mamma.”
“Hmmph.” Suryakant grunted and disappeared behind his newspaper. “Didn’t I tell you, she would be fine soon? But then when have you ever listened to me? You are always determined to make a mountain out of a molehill – just like Rani.” He snorted derisively, “You women always know how to get their way through tears don’t you?”
“As if you were going to get back Rani because I was crying!” Nisha protested sniffling.
“Sooner or later,” Suryakant mumbled but quite under his breath. But then he yielded. He rustled his newspaper and said slyly, “I hope it won’t be too salty a dinner.”
“Oh you!” Nisha beamed at him coyly from under her lashes before going back to her kitchen. She suddenly itched to make something special for dinner. For Abhi, poor thing really had to slog it out and being such a good boy about it too! Not one word of complaint about Rani having fun whilst his nose was to the grindstone – morning day and night – nothing but studies with daylong coaching classes. Poor baby.
Peace and quiet reigned supreme in Biji’s house – well not really. Shrieks of joy and bursts of laughter echoed around the house. The children were in high spirits as they exchanged notes on the upcoming triple bonanza. The girls were at a disadvantage though for they had no first hand experience of any of the events.
“What!” the boys looked at them in shocked amazement. “You have never been to a picnic, circus or fair?”
Silently, somehow feeling guilty, the girls shook their heads.
“But then what do you do in the cities?” Bholu was confused.
“We go to malls, see movies…”
“We see movies too,” interrupted Golu, “but what is this mall?”
“Mall is like a shopping complex,” Shikha explained.
The boys lost interest. “And what else?”
The girls looked at each other. “We go to school. We have plays, elocution competitions…”
“Oh please,” Kallu interrupted, “we also go to school and stuff. What do you do apart from school?”
“Well,” Rajani cleared her throat, “Bhai plays football, cricket…”
The boys looked at each other in relief. City boys, at least were similar to them. But the girls – they shook their heads and by mutual consent dropped the topic.
“So what happens in a picnic?” Rajani asked. “And how many circuses have you seen? I wonder if it is like Mr. Galliano’s circus?”
“Galliano’s circus? I thought you said you hadn’t seen a circus ever?” Kallu asked suspiciously.
“We haven’t,” Shikha said, “Galliano’s circus is the name of a book by Enid Blyton…”
“Yes,” Rajani butted in, “surely you must have read it?”
“Book? Who has the time to read books? And books are imaginary stuff not real, like our circus,” boasted Kallu. “Remember Bholu Bhaiyya when we went to the circus the last time how the hippo ate up the whole loaf in one gulp.”
“But the best were the tigers!” Chotu said, “no, the elephant and the monkey – remember how the monkey swung from one elephant trunk to the other?”
Golu joined in. “Even the acrobats were so good. My heart was in my mouth throughout, suppose one of them fell?”
“You are such a fool Golu, they had those safety nets didn’t you see?”
“Tell us about the picnic.”
“Isn’t it written in your book?” asked Kallu slyly.
“Yes of course it is.” Rajani said. “They pack food like sandwiches, boiled eggs, boiled potatoes in their jackets. Then they go out, walk a lot, play and eat under the shade of a tree.”
The boys looked skeptically at each other – boiled eggs and boiled potatoes? No thanks.
“No no, here picnics are different. You will see when we go.” Golu said
“Okay okay. Then tell us about the fair?” Shikha asked bright-eyed.
The boys looked at each other and shrugged. “Fair? Fair is good. Fun.”
“What do you mean good, fun?” the girls mocked them. “Describe it.” they ordered.
“Fair is a fair. What’s there to describe?”
“Uffo. Is it like a circus or a picnic? Is it like a play or a movie? At least tell us something?”
The boys scratched their heads. “We told you. Its fun.”
The girls groaned impatiently. “But what is it? How is it?”
Chotu closed his eyes. “Its noisy. Crowded. Colorful. Dusty. Loads to eat. Rides.” Exhausted with the effort he fell silent. His older siblings were impressed. “How do you remember? You were barely six years old when we had the last fair.”
Chotu blushed under all the attention and praise. “That is all I remember.” He mumbled.
Bholu clapped a hand on his shoulder. “And that is a lot to remember.” He raised a hand. “Now don’t eat our heads please. You can see for yourself soon. Chote Papa said that there would be one next week.”
Kallu coughed and said blandly, “Provided you stay that long of course.” With a yell, he jumped out of reach as Rajani charged at him.
“Children.” Biji’s barely raised her voice but instantly they settled down. Neither party was willing to risk jeopardizing their future, which was very bright indeed.
“Oh I can’t wait for the picnic.” Golu moaned. “I am so hungry.”
“Yeah Motu, make sure you eat loads at the picnic.”
“Why this sudden concern for me?” Golu looked at Bholu with deep suspicion.
“Not for you silly.” Bholu scoffed. “For Leela.”
“Leela?” everyone chorused.
Bholu rolled his eyes. “Do you all even know why Biji proposed the circus?”
“No.” They shook their heads and looked askance.
“Because,” Bholu said in hushed tones, “because, she got to know Leela the tiger is very hungry. She is desperate to eat some juicy human flesh. And who better than our own dear Motu who alone finishes up half the household ration? Leela happy and the Suris too. Just think of how much money we will save! We will be lakhpatis…
“Whaaa…” Golu gave a leap and landed partly on Bholu, mostly on Chotu squashing the puny little boy. He barely managed a squeak. “You hurt Chotu!” the other boys ganged up on Golu and bloodshed seemed imminent.
Kirti came up and dispersed them. “Enough now. No fighting. Do you want to forfeit your circus and picnic?”
“Mummy can we play hide and seek?”
On the verge of saying yes, Kirti caught herself just in time, “Ask Biji. Wait,” she called as the girls made to go. “I think she is doing her evening prayers. Let her be.”
“We will see Mummy. If she is free only then we will ask.” Shikha pulled Rajani and disappeared before Kirti could voice her objections.
The girls ran towards Biji’s room and came to a halt a little distance away. Exchanging warning glances, they put a finger to their lips and tiptoed forward. They gently pushed the door and peeped in.
How about a look at today's post or maybe even a stroll through the Blog Index - thanks! For next chapter click on link below: