The fragrance of wet earth had floated around deliciously since they had arisen. This had induced Father to take several deep breaths. The outcome of this exercise was so rewarding that he had, more or less, decided to do an advanced course in yogic stress management.
Some of the birds perched on the trees had been drying themselves. There seemed to have been a shower in the vicinity.
The clouds had hung low, quite ready to unload any moment. The breeze was active, too.
Father whistled a gentle tune. Towards the end of it, the drops began to fall. The cat streaked in from somewhere and settled down on the ‘welcome’ mat. Assuming incredible postures, it began to lick the wet patches on its sleek coat.
Mother scampered out to rescue the pickle bottles and Daughter hastily followed to bring in the dolls that had been left out overnight. Father sprinted out to get Daughter, as she lingered, face towards the sky, in the light shower.
After a few minutes, the pickles, Mother, Daughter, the dolls and Father were back in the dry shelter of the verandah. Not much damage had been done.
Daughter was struggling and shrieking with laughter in Father’s arms. She was being tickled. He did not loosen his grip for a few moments and reveled in her merriment. When he did, she scooted away, out of his reach, to the other side of the cane table. They smiled at each other. She challenged him to catch her. He feigned in one direction and moved rapidly in the other. But the kid was too quick for him and easily evaded his extended arm. She fled into the house, chanting that he was a snail.
He tiptoed into the bedroom from where her voice was ringing out. Peeping in, he saw that she had settled herself quite comfortably in the space between the dressing table and the south wall and was chanting away as she toweled the head of one of the dolls. After she finished, she laid aside the postage stamp-sized towel and began to brush the toy’s blond hair. In concentrating on the job, the tiny tot stopped her chant.
Father spied on her for a few minutes, before tiptoeing away.
The rain began to come down quite heavily. The sound massaged the mind.
Mother looked up from the sandwiches and smiled.
Father looked up from the newspaper and smiled.
Daughter looked up from the brushing and smiled.
Scampering to the verandah, she looked longingly at the puddles forming outside. Closing her eyes, she hopped up and down on the dry floor where she was standing. Soon, she was shouting with joy, for it did not take her long, with her fertile imagination, to imagine that she was hopping in a puddle.
Mother emerged from the kitchen. She stood still and watched Daughter. Her face was lit up with a smile of much love and tenderness.
After the rain abated and finally stopped, she told Daughter that she could hop in the puddles, if she promised to have a shower on coming indoors. The child’s scream of joy made some birds in the trees pause in their preening and look down at the cottage.
Within minutes, she was quite liberally covered with mud.
When Father emerged, he did not seem to be surprised by the mud-covered spectacle. All he wanted to know was if the child had given an undertaking about a bath to her mother. On hearing her hand-over-heart promise, he smiled and commented that he was not in the least impressed by the amount of mud on her. This made the child hop more vigorously. Very soon, Father was satisfied and moved on to begin his weekend inspection of the garden.
Daughter called out to the cat to join her. The animal ambled to the edge of the verandah. Delicately, it sniffed the air and looked up at the low clouds. A few more sniffs and its mind was made up. It ignored the invitation. Again, using it nose to great advantage, it sniffed out the most desirable spot in the corner and made itself comfortable there. From its cozy position, it surveyed the mud-covered child with as much distaste as its delicate feline features could convey.
The child stuck out her tongue at it. It yawned and closed its eyes. She called it a ‘stupid chap’. It opened its eyes and stared at her for a few seconds before curling up for a nap. The fact that it was keeping a close tab on the child could be gauged from the twitching of its ears to the assorted sounds that she was making in her resumed games.
After some time, Daughter scooted to Father. She informed him that some monsters with large wings were flying around in the garden. The parent comforted her and informed her that they were not monsters but dragon-flies.
With some apprehension, the child wanted to know if they were really dragons and would they breathe out fire. She was told that they had not yet been observed to do so. All the same, she could keep a close watch on some of the bigger fellows.
The little girl did as was suggested. Subsequently, she reported that she had not seen any flames emanating from the insects and, maybe, the rains could have put out the flames. The father nodded and told her that it could be a possibility.
Later in the morning, Mother emerged from the house. Reminding the child about the promised bath, she joined the father in his inspections. She mentioned that used tea-leaves were a very good nutrient for roses.
Father turned to her and smiled, as he suggested that he could do with some freshly used tea-leaves immediately. His smile was reciprocated with a broader one. It was pointed out to him that, if he wanted a cup of tea, he just needed to say so. There was no need to bring the roses into the picture. Mother gently patted Father’s face and headed for the kitchen on light feet.
Subsequently, Daughter wanted a confirmation from Father that Mother loved him very much since she had ‘hit you so nicely’ before she had returned to the house. Father replied that all of them loved each other very much. The child refuted this and aired her suspicion that mother loved him more than the entire world, except her, of course. Father burst out laughing and hugged her.
Mother joined them with two mugs of tea. She handed one to the father. Seeing the child’s pout, Mother promised to let her have a sip from her mug when the tea had cooled. Father saw a small eyebrow raised, enquiringly, in his direction. He undertook to let her have three sips from his mug. A wide smile adorned the child’s face and the world was a paradise once again.
The cat emerged from the verandah and ambled over to them. Sitting on its haunches, it subjected the trio to a very close observation. Apparently satisfied it let out a massive yawn and stretched languidly.
The child scowled at it. The memory of its contemptuous refusal to join in the muddy fun some time back was still fresh.
Feline charm came to the fore as the pet began to purr loudly and rub itself against the child’s legs. A few minutes of this charming process and she relented. Squatting down, she hugged it close, calling it all the endearments in her limited vocabulary. Words like tutti-fruity, pizza, 5-star, etc, were liberally used.
Since the tea had cooled, the child was called over for her promised share. She managed to snatch two large sips from Father’s mug before it was taken away. She clapped her hands and hopped in delight at having swindled the parent. Father scowled at her playfully, causing her to laugh out loudly.
Mother told her that, since she was a highway robber, there was no point trying to confine her to the promised three sips. Saying this, she handed over the mug to the child who gulped away at the contents till it was nearly depleted. She returned the mug, informing the mother that there was enough in it. On checking, it was learnt that there was just enough in it for one pygmy ant to drown. Daughter was given a light spank on her bottom. This made her laugh out and scoot to the end of the garden.
From there, varied muddy facial contortions were directed at Mother whose smile widened till she burst into laughter along with Father. The child was told that she was neck-deep in trouble. The reaction was not altogether unexpected – greater energized contortions accompanied by bunny-leaps.
Father returned to the inspection and Mother to the kitchen to do something about lunch. On the way, Daughter shouted out and informed her that fried chicken was desired. Mother replied that she needed to think deeply about it. The child suggested that she could do the thinking while preparing the dish.
Both the parents laughed for quite a while, delaying Mother’s return to the kitchen. The child smiled as she saw all the favorable signs of having her favorite dish that afternoon.
An hour later, Sunday lunch was ready. Daughter reported to the dining room. She was spotless. Apparently, her undertaking, before splashing in the muddy puddles earlier in the morning, had been given in earnest.
There was much applause when the preferred chicken dish was brought in with a flourish by Mother. A momentary tension arose when Daughter expressed great reluctance to have vegetables.
After a detailed negotiation, she offered to have one spoonful if she could have an additional large portion of chicken over the two allotted to her. There was further negotiation between Mother and Daughter. Finally, it was unanimously settled that the child would have two spoonfuls of vegetable in return for an additional medium portion of chicken and an extra portion of ice-cream. In the negotiations, the child had the last word, when she accused Mother of being very clever.
Thereafter, the lunch proceeded smoothly. Despite previous remonstrations, the cat was present under the table. Mother said that it had been lurking around the kitchen ever since she had decided to prepare chicken for lunch. She loudly wondered if the ‘chap’ could smell her thoughts.
The child was forbidden by the father to drop any titbits to the cat under the table. He arose and fetched the pet’s plate. It was placed alongside the child. She was directed to drop all her contributions to the cat’s welfare there. On enquiry, she was reassured that such contributions from the parents would be available after lunch. Accepting this, the child concentrated completely on her favorite dish, periodically breaking her attention to replenish the plate on the floor. There was much purring during lunch and later, too, after the parent’s contribution were made available.
After lunch, the pet moved out of the mainstream and stretched out behind the fridge for its Sunday afternoon siesta. The warmth in that region was the chief reason for the selection of the spot many months back.
The parents began to clear the table. Daughter contributed to the process by pointing out the order in which the various items of crockery, cutlery and glassware were to be taken away. She could not give a valid reason for her decision that the plates were to be given precedence over the spoons and the glasses over the forks other than the fact that she wanted it done that way. Despite this, her decisions were strictly adhered to and soon the table was cleared.
Subsequently, the child decided loudly that she would instruct the maid the order in which the various items were to be cleaned, when the woman reported for work the next day. Mother and Father looked at each other and smiled. They were quite sure that the maid would completely obey the daughter’s instructions since she adored the little girl.
The parents retired for the luxurious Sunday afternoon siesta as the cat had done an hour before. Daughter wondered how they could sleep during the daytime. She informed that she was not going to come anywhere near the bedroom. On being told to stay indoors till the parents woke, she pointed out that she had no intention of going out of the house that afternoon, since the dolls’ house needed to be cleaned up.
The afternoon tea was a largely liquid affair for the adults since the lunch had been quite heavy. Daughter tucked into the biscuits as if she had had just two strands of noodles for lunch. The cat was conspicuous by its absence. Considering its lunch intake, eyebrows would not be raised too high if hibernation till next spring was being considered.
The family decided to visit some friends in the evening. Mother pointed out that, on their return, some essentials could be picked up from the supermarket. The daughter agreed that it was imperative to visit the place. The stock of a certain chocolate-cream biscuits was critically low.
On enquiry, their would-be hosts declared that they would be delighted to receive them.
They set off shortly. When they neared the apartment, the junior host could be seen near the apartment gate. He was killing time by trying to climb to the roof of one of the parked cars. The security personnel was strenuously trying to prevent this. On seeing their car, he gave up the effort and sprinted up to meet them. They met a short distance from the building. Thereafter, he jogged alongside the car, describing in detail, the heroic skirmish he had with the caretaker’s cow, earlier in the day.
With much enthusiasm he guided them to the elevator. On reaching the appropriate floor, he scrambled out. He shot down the corridor towards their apartment, proclaiming their arrival. His lung power ensured that the other occupants of the building and some in the neighboring one became aware of their visit.
The next couple of hours flew by like greased lightening. The children’s conversation was largely dominated by the guest. Her updates on her friend, her school, her cat, her father, her mother, her puddles, her dragonflies, etc. held the complete attention of the junior host.
His contribution dealt largely with the run-in that he had with the cow in the morning. Apparently, the beast had objected when he had attempted to measure its calf’s tail. He exclaimed that he had been fortunate that it had been tethered. All the same, the moo-moo had got close enough for the kid to smell its foul breath. He had suggested to the caretaker that the cow’s toothpaste needed to be changed. He had suggested the brand that was his favorite.
The guests were around for a couple of hours. They left, after obtaining an undertaking regarding a return visit the following weekend.
The planned stop at the supermarket was made. Much effort was expended to locate the chocolate biscuit urgently required by Daughter. They seemed to be out of stock. With the intervention of the manager, a couple of packets were located. The tense child relaxed. Quite solemnly, she instructed the manager that he should always ensure adequate supplies of the item. The young man saluted and assured that he would.
Dinner was a repeat of the lunch. Daughter was advised to go easy on the main dish since she had tucked into it rather well at lunch. Mother pointed out the vegetables just had to be eaten; that no transactions would be entertained. Daughter managed to gulp it down at the end of the meal. She requested for two chocolate biscuits to remove the ‘awful taste’. Mother concealed a smile and gave her one.
After an hour of this and that and some cartoon programs, it was daughter’s bed-time. She admitted that she was feeling rather sleepy. The parents were at hand to tuck her in.
Just before she dropped off, she opened one eye and asked them if fairies had a holiday on Sundays.