Sunday, February 06, 2011

Story time

Memories depart on deft toes. Softly, lightly, stealthily. Before you’re aware, there's a gentle hollow where a memory once nestled taking with it the faces that crowded it.

And they return, often, with the sharp illuminating crispness of a crack of lightning, and suddenly your life is a fuller place.

That’s how I met S yesterday.

One day she reappeared, real as a biscuit in an eff-b email. Remember me H? We went to college together.

And then, not two months later, yesterday, we sat across each other grinning.

I thought I was the only one who had grey and did nothing about it she said giggling.

N reached out her finger to count mine. Masi, you have ten. N is six and she’s a Delhi bred baby tyrannosaurus. Controlling her mother, telling me I should let the kitchen decide how much sugar goes into my fresh lime soda because that’s their job, not yours and how she’s going to get lots of rakhi gifts out of her little brother. She turned to S and said it’d better be a girl or a boy, not some mixed up girl-boy thing or we’ll throw it away. And masi, liiiightly she said removing my hand from where I’d placed it on S’s belly, don’t disturb the baby.

But soon we became friends because I put salt into my fresh lime soda and it bubbled over because I will never learn the exact amount no matter how old I get so I said to shift blame — oh no my glass has done susu and N squealed.

You’re her favourite now S said picking N’s fingers out of the sugar. She was worried that her gestational diabetes would affect the baby. She was tired of having no house for the last one year since they shifted back from Dhaka into her in-laws’ house and she was not looking forward to the baby coming early because she’d thought the March delivery would’ve fitted nicely with N’s spring break.

Amid all this, N discovered to her delight that mummy was older than H masi. So that means you’re going to have to listen to EEEEEEEEEEEEVERYTHING mummy says because she’s older, na? She grinned. Nooooo I said. Who EVER told you it’s about age? I’m taller so mummy has to listen to me. Nooo. Yessssss. Noooooo. Okay then tell me N, why do people say you can do things only when you grow UP, not when you grow OLD?

For the first time N was flummoxed. She looked at mummy, but useless mummy was giggling yet again. She turned back, perplexed.

Game change she decided. Masi, tell me a story. Okay, I said. Okay. But first the magic word. Pleeeeeeeassse she squealed, and with nostril flaring delight I was reading her a story. I love when children look up at you, hanging on every word and you can stop in the middle and say – but do you know what rustle means? And they’ll say no, and you’ll explain and they’ll listen with that same spellbound expression and you can pick up the story from anywhere and know they’re still listening closely with their mutant-Delhi-tyranny slipped away leaving an innocent kissable sweetness on their faces.

I could’ve hugged N and not let her go.

You’re good with them S said, smiling not giggling.

I laughed, embarrassed --- not if you leave them with me for 24 hours, I’ll be as cranky if not worse I said, a warm glow spreading inward.

Later S leaned over. I wish I was working too sometimes she said, patting her belly. I’m so glad to see you’re so independent. You’re really happy doing what you’re doing, aren’t you?

I looked down at little N’s hand in mine, and said yes, that’s true.

8 comments:

Ben Ditty said...

I miss and LOVE fresh lime soda :)

go(ld)phish said...

My dear H.

The Wandering Minstrel said...

:) :) :) it wud be so nice to know u.

Prude said...

Am I hearing the maternal bells ringing? :-) You'll make an amazing mum someday. Until then you'll always be the awe inspiring H! :-)

H said...

P, thank you for your vote of confidence, dahling. I aspire to be an aweful mum.

W.Minstrel sweetheart you. Why don't people who know me say such nice things?

G'phish, my dear.

Ben, they're good.

The Darkling Thrush said...

:) my, what a beautifully tender post.

You talented writer persons!

no moss said...

An S sent me your blogpost. P said, about something else earlier today, some people, tangled up in words, express through images, maybe, some with words spoken, others write them best, some just hold you in a gaze.

Intimate, yet distant, some trampled upon. No opinion really. Just to register contact has been made. So little written since february. Maybe times are more settled, food tastes good.

Wouldn't wish unsettlement upon you, but would be nice to read your voice.

h said...

Dear No Moss, I apologise for such a delayed response: a result of many strange things – involving spam folders and missing comments...

But I do think you wish unsettlement upon me. It is a good thing, though.

It would be nice to write. Not sure where I lost it. Am retracing my steps and being suitably unsettled at it (I assure you.) I'm sure I'll find it soon enough. :-)

Appreciate the acknowledgment.