Anya settled down expectantly.
“You know when I was very small, maybe your age,” Badi Nani began her story, “ Once I fought with my mother and accused her that she loved my brothers more than me. I was the youngest in the family; we were 3 brothers and 2 sisters. The eldest sister was already married and I was the only daughter at home. My mother was very upset, she hugged me and said all my children are dear to me; look all my children are like the fingers of my hand, if I cut off any finger it will be just as painful right?”
Nani sighed and smiled a bit sadly, “Although I nodded my head, I said, ‘yes but you will have the most difficulty if you cut off the thumb rather than the little finger.’
“So,” Anya asked with curiosity, “What did your mother say?”
Nani shook her head, “Nothing, what could she say?”
Anya digested the story and ruminated for a while, repeating the whole story to herself under her breath; then she said, “So you are saying that for CSR, his mamma and dadi were like his thumbs?”
“Yes” sighed Nani, “After the tragedy he made Anjali bitiya one of his thumbs, but he couldn’t make me his other thumb,” Nani’s voice broke a bit and then it steadied, “Sometimes I feel that if his Dadi had stayed back he would have not been so upset, so angry,” she shook her head.
Nani was suddenly very embarrassed, Anya was just a little girl for heaven sake, why unburden her deepest sorrows to her as if she were her long lost buddy. Poor girl, no wonder she was looking so sad, “Anyway that is all water under the bridge,” she surreptitiously wiped her eyes and smiled at Anya.
Anya for once didn’t smile back but she quickly turned the album page, “Badi Nani, where is Bade Nanaji’s photo? I haven’t seen any of his yet.”
“Haan bitiya, he was the one who loved to take photographs, so he is missing from most of the photos, there are only a couple of his, uumm, haan yeeah dekho,” she proudly pointed out a tall well built man with a stern face adorned by a huge mustache.
Anya stared at his photograph and turned to Nani, “Do you miss him?”
Nani hesitated and said musingly as if speaking more to herself than Anya, “Actually I miss him more now that I have time on my hands. Earlier, there was no time to miss him or mourn his loss, there was so much to be done, the kids were still young, Chotte still so angry and upset, Anjali bitiya so vulnerable, Manohar struggling to set up business alone, Manorama’s nautankis, there was hardly any time to breathe, reflect, think, miss. We were all so busy coping. But now that all the children are busy, settled and happy, I have time to ponder, look back, miss him…”
Anya suddenly gave her a tight hug, “Why do people have to die, why do they have to leave us and go away?”
Badi Nani shook off her somber mood, “That is the rule of life dear; just think if nobody died, there would be no place on earth and ultimately nobody would be born either.”
Anya was much struck by the logic of this and thoughtfully nodded her head, “Badi Nani, do you think in heaven, bade nanaji would have met my first mamma? Just like we met here,” she said excitedly. “Yes I am sure they must have met and you know what, Bade Nanaji must also be taking care of mamma’s baby,” she clapped her hands in delight, “What fun, they are all happy in the sky and having fun just like we are on earth!”
Naniji shook her head and smiled, “Who knows maybe you are right, maybe they can even see us now and are listening to us.”
Anya waved her hand, “Hello bade Nanaji, do you still have such big mustaches?”
Nani burst out laughing, “Oh I am sure he does, he was very proud of his mustaches and cared for them just like mothers take care of their babies.”
“Did they tickle?” Anya wondered.
“What!” Nani was justifiably confused, “ka kahat raho bitiya, kuchcho samajh naahi awat!”
Anya tickled Nani and said, “Did his mustache tickle you when he kissed you?”
A faint flush rose up Nani’s cheeks and she muttered “I don’t remember, it was so long ago, achcha now close your eyes and take a nap otherwise you will be cranky and tired in the evening.”
Anya obediently closed her eyes and was fast asleep in an instant.
Nani was awake for a while as she caressed her own warm cheek, ek baar, she smiled as she remembered, she had sneezed!
Anya woke up from her cat nap refreshed; rather than disturb Badi nani who was snoring lightly, she went off to Payal’s room.
Payal was just settling down for her afternoon nap, when Anya peeped in, “Hello Anya, come in,” she welcomed the little girl, “All alone? Where’s your choti bua?”
“Chotibua is studying, badibua can I see your wedding pictures?” Anya requested.
Obligingly Payal took out her wedding album and Anya spent a pleasant hour or so admiring the pictures while Payal struggled to cope with Anya’s insatiable curiosity and endless questions; finally exhausted, she pleaded, “Anya I am sorry but the baby wants me to sleep.”
Instantly Anya was all concern and apologies, “Oh I am so sorry baby, oh badi bua you should have said so earlier, I will go now, may I take the album to see it with chotti bua?”
Thankfully and a bit guiltily Payal nodded her permission; then to further assuage her conscience, handed her a tiny but exquisite image of Ganeshji on her dressing table which Anya had admired. Anya accepted the gift happily and stowed it away carefully in her new purse and then rather awkwardly trudged to CSR’s carrying an album almost as big as herself.
It was quite a walk for the heavily burdened little girl, who was quite dizzy by the time she did manage to reach ‘the’ room, “Choti bua,” she complained, “Why is this house so confusing, it took me so long to find your room.”
“Hain na Anya,” Khushi was all agreement as she took away her burden, “I also feel there should be signs on the way, even after so many months in this house, I am not too sure how many pool sides are there and it is rather confusing because while each room can be entered through the pool side, there is always a wall opposite the pool side window.”
As Khushi started voicing her concerns and confusions, Khushi suddenly remembered an oft repeated strange occurrence that appeared to be applicable to only her; hmmm aisa lagta hai she thought (finally!) personally I can only access the poolside from either this room or through the terrace, though I can go to the terrace by another route but when I come down the terrace it always leads to the pool side and I have to cross the lion’s den.
Strange, she mused as she recollected how she had followed Shyam to the terrace on that fateful Havan day, thrown his ring and come down and crashed into Arnav by the pool side. She shook her head, maybe the house was haunted; she looked around half fearfully as the fading sunlight threw up huge shadows.
Come to think of it, it was rather eerie, Khushi nibbled her fingers, lost in the jalebi like complexity of RM, Di always came to the pool side by a route other than Arnav’s room, so did the dhobi and in fact that day when she had gone to the pool side with the typewriter, she could have sworn she didn’t go through his room, then why go through that Rakshash ka room to get mitti for the diyas, was she subconsciously baiting him, luring him, teasing him even then! Haaw!!
Sorry, Khulasa Mami seems to have taken over 😉
Click here for Chapter 74