“There she is! Look at her. I told you not to let her play with those brainless boys. Look what a mess she has made out of herself!”, Priya’s mother yelled at Ganesh.
Priya walked into the house; beaming first and then looking down as her mother’s shrill voice rose . Her eyes’ met the brown frock, brown muddy shoes and a little puddle her drenched clothes had left as she looked down.
“Oh please Anushka!”, Ganesh replied, as he walked towards Priya and stuck a tongue out at her and she started giggling. Anushka stormed inside the kitchen shouting at the walls, “You are going to clean it all, Ganesh.”
“Fine. I will, honey!”, he shouted back “ And a game in mud and rain will make her stronger. We can’t keep her house bound and act over-protective.”
“Who said we are chaining her here! I just want her to learn what girls must.”
“There is time for all that. She is just nine.”
As Priya took a step or two to walk away from them, her mother glared angrily. It clearly said – stay there. She stood.
The hurricane hadn’t settled down when Prabhat, their son, entered the house – covered in mud from temple to toe. Anushka almost burst into tears for no one would listen to her and so she resorted to washing utensils with the skill of a gunsmith.
Ganesh walked to her and rested his hands on her shoulders as he spoke, “I am sorry. I’ll clean up the mess. Don’t be angry please. They are just growing up and learning and…they will leave tomorrow for the International school we chose for them”.
“and then it ‘ll be just us at home, honey”, he teased her as he kissed on her cheeks and wrapped her waist in his arms when suddenly:
“Mommy! Prabhat hit me”, Priya cried out.
“No mommy! Priya is hitting me”
“He started it”, and before any one of the parents could make it to them, they were already on the ground fighting for survival. Ganesh picked up Prabhat and pulled him strongly but Priya’s hands had clutched his T-shirt so hard that the collar came off. After a few minutes both Ray Mysterio and The Rock had been sentenced GROUNDED till further orders came.
The storm had wrecked the floor and painted the walls of the hall in brown modern art. Ganesh quietly started cleaning up and without speaking much, so did Anushka.
The day had been hectic for both of the parents and the evening was horrible but as they lay in each other’s arms, the night fell asleep and the sun woke up bringing a new day for both of them.
“Wake up Ganesh! We need to pack their bags. The cab will arrive in two hours. ”
Priya walked into their bedroom as Anushka went into the kitchen and stood silently against the side of bed he lay on. “Pa…I don’t wanna go”, she whispered.
“Hey love. We ll meet every weekend and it’s not far. Call us whenever you…”
She interrupted his sentence and said, ” I’ll never be a bad girl. I won’t fight with Prabhu again and I’ll take care of myself. Please” she sobbed.
Ganesh placed his hand on her head and patted, thinking hard about what he was going to say,when he heard his voice explain it to her,”Whenever you feel like you don’t like that place, tell us. We’ll bring you back but you must go and see how beautiful it is there. They’ll teach you swimming, riding horses and let you play whatever you want. I’ll get you here the moment you say you wanna come back, I swear. Try it. Maybe you’ll love that place.”
“Maybe I won’t.” She walked out of his room with head held down.
Third day at the school
“Dee”, Prabhat held out his chocolate to her as they sat on a bench after playing.
“let’s share it”, she tried breaking it into halves but couldn’t so she gave the bigger piece to Prabhat.
He grinned and filled his mouth with the bar and ate it in one go.
‘It’s been more than two decades since then. I remember in a year and a half’s time we went back home because Mumma said she couldn’t bear the emptiness we had left behind. I heard her say to Pa she wanted to see us grow and be with us all the time. I am glad I didn’t make much of a mess again by staying there at hostel. I learned so many things,what it means to be a family, and most importantly that my brother is not a beast. He only acts like one “, Priya thought as she showed the albums of her childhood to her husband, Hitesh, pointing to her photograph in school dress; the one that had been taken on the third day of that boarding school.
“I am the richest person”, she declared quietly as her words mixed into the air. He smiled, trying to find the hidden sarcasm that she used so often and replied, ” I am sorry we don’t earn enough together to build us empires”.
Then she hushed him by keeping her fingers on his lips softly and spoke, “I don’t want empires, silly. I am rich with a family and members of it who love me dearly. You and our kids are my wealth.”
Hitesh hugged her and chuckled,” I always knew you were trouble. And you know what else I know?”
“I love you.”