It gets lonely early...
I loved watching mom wrap the books. Cutting out equal sized sheets of smaller dimension from the huge roll of brown wrapper, she would snip a little, tear a little, tuck a little and then give me a brand new dressed book.
And it would be my duty to stick those labels on them. Right hand side corner. Mom never appreciated me sticking them anywhere else and least of all on myself!
It was one of the rare times that mom stayed back in Kerala for a little longer- grandma wasn’t too well. School was to reopen, books were to be bought and wrapped and oh yeah- dad had to work too- so both of us came back.
I was happy that I would be going back without mom. The holidays with mummy around the whole day were getting to be way too tiresome for both of us- when thankfully they got over.
The whole house looked way too different when daddy carried me and the suitcases inside. A kind of hollow feeling... I assured myself that all houses without people and that’s been locked to dust and spiders gave the feeling.
Breakfast was out, lunch was out and dinner was from outside too. And I ate ice cream all three times. The hollow house feeling evaporated slowly with each spoonful… I thought of all the possibilities with no mom around and smiled at daddy. His smile wasn’t his usual- but then I always felt he was a little too attached to mummy and unreasonably so!
The next morning found both of us at my school. I saw a lot of my classmates- but all of us were quite queer after the almost 3 month vacation and the smiles were mostly shy… daddy shook his head sadly seeing the number of books yet again this year.
We went to buy the wrapper. I pushed my luck which seemed to be on an all time high-I’d had ice cream again that morning and asked daddy if I could use red wrapper- the one with silver stars to cover my books. It was one of the first ‘no’s’ of that summer… he let me chose the labels though.
Going home, I reminded daddy- the books need to be wrapped. He appeared a little distracted. I later realized why…
Daddy could not cover the books. I’d never seen him clumsy at anything before and it was a shock. While mom made precise folds and straight lines- daddy’s wrapping looked like a baby in a blanket- all creases and wrinkles!
While I sat there open mouthed-partly because of the over sized lollypop and partly because I’d opened my mouth to ask Daddy something but forgot all about it, daddy looked at me in complete hopelessness and said, “This thing just doesn’t stay where I put it!”
I don’t know how the rest of the days went by. Wherever I walked I either walked into empty rooms or into Daddy.
I first thought I missed her crisp ghee dosas. Then I thought it was that I missed wearing clean clothes. It was perhaps that I missed longing for ice cream. Perhaps I was missing mummy…
I learnt slowly that daddy could not iron clothes, he could not turn omelets, and he could not even make Viva!
Wandering yet again into Daddy’s study I found him standing in front of a Mathrubhumi calendar and smoking.
I went and stood between him and the calendar. Picking me up he said, “20th. That’s when mummy’s coming”
I pressed my nose on the sheet of paper-relief coursing through me. So she was coming back.
“How long is that away from today?”
“A week. 7 days. You can cross off the dates on the calendar. Here, take this one and you can strike the dates as each day is over”
I climbed down with a small calendar in hand. I promptly sat on the floor and scored off today. It wasn’t even afternoon…
The next two days went longer than usual. I waited patiently until afternoon to score off the date in the small calendar that daddy had given me… and from afternoon restlessly until the next day so that I could draw a red line over a date…
By the fourth day I hated the very sight of the calendar. Daddy was as cheerful as ever. A little on the sad side- but yeah- he wasn’t as badly off as I was…if he noticed that I was walking with the calendar around the whole day- he didn’t comment…
The next day- our steps were lighter. We scrubbed the kitchen clean- actually my servant and an additional 100 rupees did. Daddy even managed to turn the omelet and bring it back onto the pan.
I tore up the calendar. I knew mummy was around the corner somewhere… I didn’t need a piece of paper to tell me that.