Dinner over, the gang migrated to the lobby, while Anjali excused herself, she was feeling uneasy about Anya, “I will just check if she is asleep,” she promised Khsitij.
Khsitij nodded, relieved, as he too was feeling worried about Anya.
Even though the lights were off, Anya was in bed, she was awake, “Anya,” said Anjali softly, “Are you ok?” she sat beside her on the bed.
“I am fine Anjie,” mumbled Anya; Anjali made to switch on the light, but Anya held her hand. Anjali sank back and gently caressed the little girl, “How was your party? Did you and your friends enjoy?”
Anya brightened a bit, “Yes, it was great, and do you know, everyone won some prize or the other. Even Ankit! He won the prize for having the greatest lung power!” they both laughed.
Anjali gently massaged Anya’s arms and legs, “I saw you got loads of gifts but you haven’t opened any of them yet?”
Anya sat up, “Yeah, I thought I would open them tomorrow with you, so much has happened today, I wanted to leave something for tomorrow as well.”
Anjali smiled and cupped her cheek, “And finally your wish is going to come true, your favorites, Mamu and Mami are going to have a baby! Isn’t that a wonderful and special birthday gift?”
Anya nodded stiffly, Anjali peered into her face and tried to read her expression in the darkness and questioned softly, “What happened sweetheart?”
Anya threw her arms around Anjali and burst into tears, “Oh Anjie I am so embarrassed!”
Even as Anjali reflexively hugged and comforted the little bawling girl, she was taken aback, “Embarrassed! But why?”
Anya sniffled and hid her face in Anjali’s shoulder and mumbled something which was quite unintelligible, “What did you say Anya?” Anjali patted and caressed her back.
There was silence and then Anya said, “I said, I know how babies are made.”
Anjali let out a deep breath of relief but then controlled herself, the poor girl was upset as it is without having her mother laughing at her, “And?”
“And I am so embarrassed at the way I harassed you, dad, Mamu, Mami,” she pulled away from her mother and put her hands on her hot cheeks, “I wonder what you all must be thinking of me! Oh mum why didn’t you stop me, say something!”
Anjali bit her lips, grateful for the darkness and said seriously, “I am sure your Mamu and Mami must have found it cute and adorable, they love you, you know that don’t you? And we were all children once, so don’t worry, we have all made some faux pas or the other,” she smiled and shook her head, “I remember when mamma was expecting Chotte and she had a big belly and there was this baby shower specially for her and lots of guests, relatives had assembled to bless mamma and the right in the middle of the function, I asked in a loud voice, “But how did the baby get inside Mamma’s tummy?”
To her relief, Anya relaxed and giggled, “Really?!”
“Really!” Anjali smiled as she could still vividly recall Mamma’s horrified expression, “There was pin drop silence and then everyone spoke all at once drowning out any other thing I might say! Nani hustled me outside and gave me a plate of aloo puri, telling me that it was all ‘Bhagwanji’s’ doing; distracted with the plate of goodies, I had been content with that.” Anjali shook her head at her own naivety.
She hugged Anya and affectionately cupped her face, “You know something else, if it wasn’t for your innocent interference, it is likely that we wouldn’t still have had Ankit!”
They both laughed, Anya hugged her hard and mumbled, “Thanks Anjie, thanks Mamma.”
Anjali looked into her face searchingly, “I hope you understand that this baby-making business is symbolic of the love between two adults who are capable of taking independent decisions?”
Anya looked at Anjali a bit confused.
Anjali caressed her hair gently and said, “What I am trying to say is that the initiation and progress of physical intimacy should be mutual,” she coughed, faltered and continued rather pompusly, “and only undertaken after becoming an adult and that too after a lot of thought, if at all before marriage…”
“Anjie…” Anya attempted to stop Anjali.
Uncaring and determined to have her say, “and if anybody, I repeat anybody initiates any action or gesture that is not acceptable to you for any reason whatsoever, don’t feel compelled to accept it; this is an age for experimentation and curiosity may drive you to take some paths which may have disastrous consequences for a girl. Do you understand what I am saying?
“Oh come on Anjie, you mean rape right?” Anya cut right in. “Yeah of course I know that, in fact that’s how it all came out, there was this newspaper article on rape which Anoushka had read, and Nidhi had seen a movie where a man was chasing the heroine around a room and she couldn’t understand what the guy wanted from her; Radha very knowledgeably declared that he wanted to kiss her! Immediately, a huge discussion broke out, all for a kiss? Unbelievable! Then of course a subdued Aisha, who has recently started her periods and had nagged her mother for the full gory details and had done a bit of internet research, revealed all (as usual) to her less informed classmates.”
“Why was Aisha subdued?” Anjali was concerned.
Anya laughed wickedly, “Oh! Poor Aisha! You know she made her mum and dad practice running into each other’s arms like they do in Hindi movies! Worse, all the parents know that Aisha is our guru in these matters! Poor thing,” Anya rubbed her hands in glee.
“Oh poor thing!” Anjali commiserated with Aisha’s embarrassing predicament and then giggled and did a hi-five with Anya.
Anjali hugged Anya, both feeling more at ease, “Good night sweetheart and many happy returns of the day,” she kissed her and pulled up the covers.
Suddenly Anya sat up, “Mamma can you tie up my last last two fingers?”
Anjali looked at Anya confused, “What!”
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