This is a short story I wrote sometime back, and sold the copyrights to our dearest Nisha. Unfortunately, she was unable to interpret my complex handwriting.
Sunny, dusty summer day. I was busy prattling standing in front of our usual stores with a school mate of mine. One thing led to another, and he cracked something dense and I spontaneously burst into laughter. Unable to contain my laughter I had to take a couple of step backwards. It was surprising that my eyes found a little girl the same instant standing by the road side, with a very innocent but puzzled look on her face.
My conversation lasted a bit more, but all the while my eyes looking at this kid. Looked like no one was with her. I was quick to end my conversation with him just to make sure that no harm came the kids way. I walked towards the little one and I couldn’t help notice that she was tiny. Cute with a small pony tail, wheatish in color, chubby were my initial impressions.
‘Is there no one with you? Why are you standing alone?’
There was no answer, instead she looked to the ground. Having dealt with a lot of kids of the same age, I tag her along to the store nearby and buy her a chocolate bar and some water. After that, right on the steps of the store we sat down. While she munched on the chocolate bar, I started going through her little school bag.
‘Geetanjali Iyer!’ I read out. ‘Oh you little Iyer girl.’
She looked at me once but then went back to what she was doing.
In the meanwhile, I found the students diary from her school bag. Luckily, it had all the details. Her residence address, phone number and information enough to see her safely home. I knew all the places in the vicinity as I grew up there, and I could identify that her apartment as neighborhood one.
We walk towards her apartments, and she was holding my little finger while I helped her with the bags. As we covered some distance, I felt like a locomotive trying to pull a reluctant little kid resisting the motion. I picked her up, and rested her head on my shoulder as she sat on my forearm, and then made steady progress.
We reached her apartment and I rang the calling bell twice. While the third ring was in progress, a lady in her late twenty or early thirty may be, opened the door in a haste. But seeing the kid asleep on my shoulder, she heaved a sigh of relief. I explained the scenario; she smiled warm at me and asked me to come in.
I handed over the kid to her rightful owner and just kept a foot or two inside the house. The young lady explained that she had taken a small dose of medicine for the fever she was suffering from and hence she had no clue of the time. After introducing myself, I told her that I lived in the next apartment and gave her the apartment number as well. I asked the young lady to come home sometime with Geetanjali, if she was free. I also added from my part that my mother might be excited to meet them.
That evening, I opened the door to a surprise. It was the little Geetanjali, with her mother of course. I introduced the young lady to my mother and they exchanged pleasantries. Women don’t take much time to bond and they always find something common to talk about. Geetanjali’s mother mentioned that she was forced by the young one to come here, for she expected a chocolate bar like before. I said nothing but smiled at her, but then the most cruel person in the whole world could not have denied her a chocolate. She looked so adorable. I quickly found my way to the bedroom, opened the school bag and from the money that I had stashed up my sleeve … or my bounty from dad’s leftovers. I knew I would need the money later, but then I could do the feat again and top up my stash.
With the consent of her mother, I picked her up and walked towards the store. On the way she would mumble somethings and I would just smile back at her. Soon she had her chocolate.
Later that night, I asked my mother,
‘Why would someone come to our home if it was for chocolates? She could have taken the kid directly to the store and bought it herself.’
‘I would have also done the same, thanks to your father. Also they are new to the place, and might have felt bored at home.’
My father wouldn’t leave any money at home most of the times and my mother would always have to ask for it if there was anything urgent at home with a notice of 1 day. On the other hand, I would always try and nick off the left overs, so I would be self-sufficient. My mother being a home maker and we being a middle class family, finance always was a constant source of worry. I felt bad for the young lady as well.
The next day, the same scenario. But this time I had played a bit wisely. I already got money from my father for buying her chocolates. They stayed back till late at home, and my father happened to meet Geetanjali. Later on my mother became great friends with her mother. She would usually be at our place for long time, but the number of chocolates now depended on my pocket. Sometimes my father would get her some after work.
After some five to six months, it so happened that Geetanjali’s mother had to travel with her father for some urgent reasons. She didn’t want to take the kid along and requested my mother if she can take care of her. Even before my mother I nodded a big yes. The ladies in the room laughed since I was only a late teenager.
But then in retrospect they were wrong with their laugh. The kid came in to stay and my world revolved around her.
Though I wouldn’t be there in the morning to deal with her chores, but in the later part of the day I had my routine set to match the kids routine. I would come back home and take her out the garden or a kids play zone, bring her back and check her homework and make her do it, play with her, make sure that she ate something (if not fed her) and later put her to sleep. My mother was particularly not happy about this cos I used to neglect my work in this process.
After a couple of days, even taking the kid for a quick showers became a responsibility. In those 10 days I felt so attached to her, like an elder brother or even more than that. The kid was also attached to me as much as I was to her.
Years passed in multiples of decades. Life had changed, so had priorities.
‘You know? You have grown so much still nothing compared to the beauty of your younger times.’ I jokingly mentioned to Geetanjali.
‘Hmmm. If you say so old man.’ as she pointed out the grey strands on my hair as we stood in front of the mirror.
‘Old man, hehe. I used to carry you around to the stores, to the park. Look at you now, you have grown to a beautiful young lady.’
The little girl had grown up to a beautiful and adorable young lady. She was always my pride. Like any father would feel…
‘Not with those gray hair, not anymore…. hahaha’