‘Where are we going Mumma?’
The bubbling curiosity of an inquisitive toddler was uncontrollable as she continued questioning her mother, Shalini, whose eyes though remained stuck on the road ahead.
Unfazed with such a cold reaction of her mother, she paused for to let the huge truck pass them by, and continued with her enquiry again, using the same tone of voice and this time, also using her hands to complement her words, moving them like a pendulum and hoping to garner her mother’s attention.
Her five-year-old brain worked tirelessly to come up with the right trick to tire Shalini into submission.
Shalini glanced at her once, nodded her head and continued looking at the road ahead, least she crashes again against something like she did the last time, she was on this road.
The road, though, was practically empty; the fact that it was a Sunday combined with the incessant out-pour of the monsoon was keeping the entire city indoors.
The little eyes now began surveying the place they were crossing as she temporarily forgot about her question, awed by the beauty of things, she was observing around her.
The fresh flowers and the greenery of the Lutyens Delhi mesmerized her hyperactive mind as she immersed herself in a riot of colours; green, red, orange, pink, the foliage of the trees too were trimmed to make them look even more aesthetically pleasing.
‘Mama, is that a Giraffe,’ she shouted, forcing Shalini to look where she pointed her little fingers and discovered wired enmeshed together with creepers running all over and around it to make it look like one of the tallest animals.
Little Khushi smiled as Shalini finally looked at her with a smile, feeling proud of her memory as her daughter effortlessly recalled the name of the animal.
For a moment, her thoughts wandered in the past, recalling the first time she herself saw a giraffe. It was when she was a 10-year-old kid, double her daughter’s age, but still carried the same level of exuberance and excitement.
‘She is so much like me,’ she murmured inside her head, the emotionless face suddenly breaking into a large smile.
‘Mumma, where are you driving to?’ suddenly Khushi reverted to her earlier question, still trying to find out why they were driving on an empty road on a day when her mother normally sleeps late and they both watch TV till evening.
Slowing down the car, Shalini decided to finally answer her daughter, as her eyes sparkled at the prospect of finding out their destination.
‘We are going where I should have taken you when you were born,’ said Shalini softly before wiping off her moist cheeks with the tissues from the dashboard.
Khushi stared at her mother as she also felt her eyes brimming seeing her mother get so emotional.
‘We are going to your Nani’s (maternal grandmother) place,’ she replied with a loud sigh.
‘As we see in the videos,’ Khushi’s replied immediately with the effervescence of a child who has just been surprised with her favourite toy.
‘Yes, like we see in the movies,’ Shalini nodded her head.
It’s been 10 years since she stepped into her parents’ house after running away to marry her college sweetheart, but who didn’t think twice about leaving her and his little child 4 years ago, to settle with his young office colleague.
‘Come home, beta,’ her mother pleaded after that incident, forgetting about what had happened earlier, but Shalini managed everything on her own, spurning every request of theirs.
‘Mumma, who is Nani?’ asked Khushi once, as they were both watching a movie together.
The innocent question suddenly forced Shalini to re-look at her life and call up her mother.
There were far too many requests from her parents and she decided to let Khushi finally meet her grandparents today.
They got down from the car as Shalini’s parents stood at the gates to welcome them.
Even before her grandmother could ask anything, Khushi immediately ran towards her Nani.
‘Are you Nani?’ she asked after getting close, in her typical high-pitched voice, as the old eyes, unable to control the pent-up feelings, spilled them as they flowed down her cheeks; Shalini stood at a distance, watching the two of them embrace each other. ‘I should have come here before,’ Shalini exhorted, herself mentally; she felt her feet freezing as she watched Nani hug her granddaughter even more tightly.