She’d long decided that marriage wasn’t for her. The elders in her family and everybody in the neighbourhood stopped trying to change her mind when she hit 35. “You’ll be lonely one day,” they warned. She brushed aside their advice until she hit 42. That’s when the craving for a child of her own filled her heart and mind. “Adopt a child without giving her a father’s name?” Everybody discouraged her. Finally. she said: I give a damn what you all think. In fact, let me break a little rule. When she held the little girl close, she knew she was going to be very happy.
Every time there was a birthday party or random house party, she prayed that the cool kids would invite her. She knew she was fat so her boring clothes would never get her invited. Pleasant shock hit her when one of the normal sized girls asked her to join them. “Oh. My. God.” What would she wear that would work with that shape underwear thing that was supposed to keep her ugly stomach in? After school, she went to the mall and tried on everything in her size. Every time she looked in the mirror in the fitting room, she hated herself.
Her friends told her to play hard to get. “Men don’t like women who pursue them,” they explained. She was confused. “So I’m supposed to hide my feelings?” Her friends laughed. They told her that nobody liked desperate women. So she sighed. Then she decided to change the topic to shoes and bags – that wouldn’t require hiding emotions she hoped.
She was too comfortable. The habit of being alone had become an addiction. Oblivious to the couples and groups around her, she enjoyed her personal little bubble. It wasn’t as if she had no friends. It was more like they were just somehow in her life, like an accident. One fine day, the bubble burst. Realisation made her see the beauty of togetherness and the human need for company. But the bubble came back to surround her just minutes later – she craved her own space like a bookworm needed books.
“They gave up!” Anushka was scared now.
The storyteller scolded her, “You really need to learn how to sit still, child. You cannot hurry everything like this.” Anushka promised to stay quiet.
Grandmother began again, “The sisters started crying again so your grandfather could not bring them back for lunch. Then your mother had an idea.
“Baba, let’s go look near the bazaar. Maybe Boo went back to his original home,” she thought aloud.
“So, the three of them walked toward the local bazaar, drenched in sweat, hungry, but
determined to find Boo.”
“Just when they were nearing the bazaar, Moo shrieked joyfully. They were standing in front of a mother dog with her recently born puppies. The mother dog was taking turns to lick her paws and then lick her children. There were four puppies – all the same shade of brown as Boo. They were the same age as well. Your grandfather leaned down to pet them. The mother dog sniffed him with curiosity, moving her nostrils all over his hand. After she decided that he was safe, she wagged her tail.
Then Moo asked: Which one’s Boo?”
Anuskha’s mouth dropped open. When would they find Boo?
The story continued. “Your grandfather admitted that he didn’t know. Moo started crying again. Your mother was more confident. She held each puppy one by one, inspected each from head to tip of tail, and confirmed that the fourth one was Boo.”
Anushka could not help but let out a cheer. Finally! Grandma smiled and told her to wait because there was more. She was enjoying this. She went on:
“The three of them came home with Boo. When they reached home, we were waiting at the door. Everybody was excited and hugged Boo. But then your Leena aunty cried out that it wasn’t Boo after all.”
“Where is the big white spot on his belly?”
“Everybody turned to look at Moo and your poor mother. Your grandfather sat down quietly. I made everybody eat their lunch. It was 5:30PM. Everybody ate a bit, while the ‘wrong’ Boo was given a meal too.”
“And now for your happy ending, little Anu,” grinned her grandmother. Anushka sat up straight, pulling sleeping Chiki onto her lap. Her grandmother chewed on a biscuit, taking her time. She liked creating suspense. “Grandma, please!” Anushka could not take it anymore.
“Alright. So just as Moo and Leena were cleaning up the table and your grandfather was ready to take his nap, Boo wandered in! Everybody ran to him, crying tears of happiness this time.”
“When we were quiet, Moo had a question: What about the other Boo? What will we do with him?
Your grandfather took the wrong Boo back to his mother and brothers and sisters. Nobody forgot about him. Moo and your mother visited him every weekend, taking food for him and his family.”
Now Anushka had a question. “But where had the real Boo been all day?” Her grandmother’s belly shook as she started laughing.
“That is a mystery.”
First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)
It was a rainy Sunday afternoon – the perfect occasion to listen to some old stories. Grandma was busy explaining a recipe to mother and father, but Anushka was impatient. She tugged on the old lady’s sleeve and said, “Grandma, please tell me a story!”
Her grandmother laughed. “Didn’t I tell you a story about your naughty mother just last night?”
Anushka nodded. “But I want to hear a story about all of them – Moo, grandfather and everybody else,” she demanded.
Anushka loved her aunts and uncles but only saw them once a year when they visited from
abroad. And as for her grandfather, he had passed away before they could even meet. Therefore, she liked to hear stories about them. It was fun to picture how she imagined they all had been back then.
Grandfather surely wore crisp white dhoti and Punjabi. And her mother used to love wearing frocks with flowery designs. Moo, Anushka’s favourite aunt, had always been the nicest in her opinion. She had only scolded Anushka once in her life and took her to the bookstore often.
So Grandma took Anushka’s hand. They settled down on the sofa, with Chiki, the sleeping pet cat next to them. Then the story began.
“Even though your mother, aunts and uncles didn’t share the same feelings for mathematics or rosogullas, they all loved animals.” Anushka already knew this because she had grown up feeding and talking to stray dogs and cats with her mother and Moo.
Grandma continued. “Once Moo had brought home a puppy. We named him Boo, to rhyme with Moo. When the children came back from school a few days after that, we couldn’t find Boo. Your Moo started crying loudly. Then your Leena mashi joined her.”
Anushka giggled. “Leena mashi always wants the most attention even now,” she joked.
“So I went running. I asked what had happened. Your mother, who was also crying by then, told me that Boo had disappeared. I panicked too. Still, I could not let the girls cry so much. I went to search the garden and roof top. Moo followed me as she sobbed.”
Anuskha was getting worried. This did not seem like a funny story like the other ones. “Then what happened, Grandma,” she asked anxiously.
“Leena had stopped crying for a while. But then your grandfather entered the room, all sweaty from the hot summer weather.”
“What is wrong, my girls?” He asked them with his eyes on me.”
“I was sitting with my head in my hands, wondering how Boo had managed to leave. Moo, your mother and Leena cried out together: Baba, Boo is missing!”
Anushka frowned. She hoped that the story had a happy ending.
“Your grandfather took out his handkerchief, wiped his face and noticed that our lunch had not been touched. He touched Moo’s head and said: Moo, let’s go look for Boo. He must have wandered off somewhere.”
“Did they find Boo, Grandma? Anushka needed to know. Her grandmother told her to be patient.
“So Moo and your mother tried to dry their tears. The three of them set off on the mission to find Boo. They walked in silence except for the occasional sniffle from Moo. After twenty minutes of searching the area surrounding our house, your grandfather suggested that they go home and eat and start the search again with more energy.”
First published in TeleKids (An ABP Group publication)
They told her that she couldn’t possibly find love until she became smaller. “Are you saying that nobody would want to sleep with me?” She knew the answer already. They looked at her with pity, wondering how she expected any man to even look at her. That night, she realised that she hated herself. No, she hated the world where her body measurements defined her. “I don’t need anybody’s love,” she decided. “Not even your own?” That was her wise inner voice.