My impish little niece is such a bratty fairy of a girlie, that I discreetly steal time - as much as i could - from the winged charioteer, and surprise her with my presence every once in a while, although for a very brief while, just to get to be with her! To enjoy the prattle and the chuckle! the care and the cuddle! and what not!!!
And the moment she sees me from yonder, - in a longgg time - say two weeks ;-) - this little elf of a girlie all of four years, gets so excited that she strides at a rapid pace or rather ‘racewalks’ towards her maama (uncle), holds out her hands in a ‘carry me please’ gesture, and when done, just hugs my shoulders as tight as she could, and leans gracefully on me, - a regal recline of sorts - without lifting up her head. Silence becomes her effective prayer from now on, even as she begins to go into a trance to feel the secure solace and the comfort of her beloved ‘rooofi’ maama. I hug her tight and ask her, -
‘How are you paapa (little girl)?’
‘Did you go to school today?’
‘Have you done your homework?’
‘Did you have your dinner?’ etc.
The more the questions from her maama, the more her silence.
Then I tell her, ‘Maama has bought something for you chellam. Do you wanna open your eyes to see it???’
Again, a passive and a faint nod that forebodes a stern ‘No’!
Distractions couldn’t distract her!
Five minutes flit us by.
Fifteen minutes fly by.
Still, our fairy girlie is ‘resolutely determined’.
Like a warrior holding on to his National Flag, and says, I shall not leave hold of the flag of my nation, ‘come what may’, our pretty little snowflake was clinging on to her maama, ‘come what may’!
Coaxings of all hues, and goadings of all colours could only add more vehemence to her cling!
With no visible signs of thawing to the clinging anywhere in sight, I hit upon a ‘clever’ plan! At least clever enough to pull a trick on my little imp.
“Okay, now, go chellam, dress up quickly and come. Rooofi maama will take you along with me by car, back to Chennai!”
For the first time, like the chuckling of a groundhog in hibernation emerging from its burrow to mark the arrival of the spring season, our imp emerged from her supposed ‘rip van winklish’ slumber, and exclaimed,
‘Yes, my dear little imp. Go quick. Put on your bestest summer wear and let’s hop in and start on our adventure trip!’
The ‘indescribable lustre’ and the unfathomable radiance that dazzled through her face, showed the traces of the babyish smile that’s always been her forte ever since ‘ages’! ;-) Her dimpled smile reflected one of satisfaction and contentment, and soon a dignified repose began to calm her frayed and troubled eyes, and by now paapa’s palpable palpitations had reduced to a relaxed sigh!
And in no time, she goes right to her little boudoir and goes on a ‘choosing spree’…
In the meantime, I was ‘a bit’ on the ‘satisfactory mode’, satisfaction at having got some time to ‘get down’ my snacks and chaai and what nott… and get some time ‘at my disposal/command’ to talk to my kith and kin too…
After some time, we all strategically agreed to come to a decision that, when paapa goes into her room, to look into her tiny little wardrobe, her ‘rooofi maama’ should give her the slip, to ‘nip’ right at the start, any form of ruckus or hartal or agitation that was expected from paapa, when she comes to know that her ‘rooofi maama’ had left her and had returned to Chennai!
So very soon, here was I, making my way out, as quiet as a lamb, not to distract the make-believe of paapa!
Starting the engine and quietly moving to the second gear, I laboriously labored my way through the lanes and bylanes of Pondicherry, with little inclination to observe what was going ahead of me up there on the roads! Yes, Paapa was overboard, donning the mantle of my imagination all along…
After having driven for well over fifty kilometres, my heart couldn’t control the agony and anxiety at having promised my little niece, and having gone down on that promise! How much that little soul would’ve been hurt!
So I resolved! Made up my mind! I’m going back to Pondicherry, with paapa’s favourite candies and snacks and what not, and then gonna take her out on a jolly ride for a mile or so, and then, give her a kiss, and bid her good bye with the promise of a soon-return!
So I returned to Pondicherry! Right to paapa’s house!
It was a good two hours into the night by the time I returned.
My folks were surprised to see me back!
I just ‘gatecrashed’ my way into the rooms, to where paapa was, having bought all her favourites, to assuage her already aggrieved heart!
Paapa was in the bestest of her attire. The one I had gotten her for her fourth birthday!
With a half-open mouth, and a dovish gentleness in her closed angel-eyes, and an innocent radiance that permeated her tiny frame, paapa was now sleeping. She must have gone into the world of her dreams - into the ‘visionary gleam’ that Wordsworth talks about in his Immortality Ode, or ‘far, far away into the world of the Keatsian nightingale’, exclusively to look out for whereabouts concerning her ‘rooofi maama’…
I just bent down to give her - our sleeping beauty - a gentle kiss, careful enough not to wake her up!
Even as I bent down, I was struck deep within on seeing the dried-up tears, faded tears and deposited tears, all over paapa’s graceful little face!
Tears that spoke volumes of paapa’s trust on her maama’s words…
Tears that told reams and reams about how maama had abruptly let her down!
Tears that spoke out to her multitudinous thoughts by the number!
Tears that taught a thousand little things to this teacher when ‘talking tall promises’ to tiny little tots!
With the deepest of sighs that defies definition!!!