Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Short story - Meeting M

Pizza!' screamed Sharada.
'No pizza! Only sheera,' countered Aniruddha or Ani.
'Ma! You promised to make pizza on the first day of the vacation,' said Sharada, sticking out her tongue at Ani, her older brother by six years.
'Ma! Why don't you order pizza for the baby? And, make sheera for me, huh?,' winked Aniruddha.
Fed up with the constant silly banter, Gayatri had her own tricks to deal with the children. She pulled out the vegetable tray and called out to Sharada.
'Chop them for the topping. And get the pizza base from the bakery,' she said calmly.
With murderous look, Sharada set to chop the vegetables. But, she knew that she won't be 'punished' alone. Soon, Ani was summoned to measure semolina and roast it to perfection. In the kitchen, Ani whistled and hooted and drove his little sister up the wall.
Later Gayatri surprised Sharada by asking her if she had cleaned her room.
At her quizzical expression, Gayatri said, 'Have you forgotten already? Meera is coming to stay with us tomorrow.'
'Ooops! Yes, I will get my room ready,' Sharada jumped to her feet.
'By the way, cleaning your room doesn't mean shoving stuff under your bed,' Ani butted in, neatly dodging the cushion Sharada threw at him.
Meera was their aunt's daughter. Born and brought up in US, Sharada and Ani had met her couple of times, at some uncle's wedding or family get-together.
Next day when Gayatri drove Meera home, she looked a little worried. Seated besides her was Meera, not looking like the 10-year-old girl she was.
Sharada rushed to envelope the girl in a warm hug, when she was rudely pushed away.
'Maasi, who's this wild banshee?'
'Don't you remember Sharada, your cousin?' Gayatri said, signaling Sharada to keep quiet.
'Oh! She has shot up like a palm tree! Look at her hair, all sticking out like blades. Run a comb through your hair, dear!' Meera smiled.
Frowning Sharada stepped back and allowed Meera to move past her, checking out her cousin's short silk skirt, the very adult semi-cultured pearl necklace, and wedges.
Feeling rebellious, Sharada decided to forget welcoming her cousin and instead went to meet friends. Ani had gone for his cricket practise and so didn't meet his grown-up, younger cousin till lunch.
Sharada didn't turn up, preferring to eat at a friend's place, and so Ani enjoyed Meera's affected behaviour all by himself. He nodded with amusement at Meera's request, 'Please call me M. Meera is too raah!'
Ani noticed that M was too polite.
'Maasi...I am sorry, but can I not eat dal, chawal,' she began.
'Maasi, if it's not a problem, can you please order mineral water? I had a tummy upset last week...'
When Sharada trooped in, all muddied after playing a rowdy match of football, Meera squealed, 'Maasi! Look at her! Ugh! She stinks! Go take a shower, Sharada.'
Gayatri again signaled Sharada to stay quiet and pushed her towards the bathroom. At night, after Meera had 'retired' to the bedroom, Sharada asked with a dangerous quiver in her voice, 'How many days more?'
Gayatri replied, 'Ten days'.
Sharada gritted her teeth, while Ani laughed uprorariously.
'Outwit M! Do you need me to tell you how? Think! Think!' Ani winked at Sharada.
Next day, when M was busy unpacking gifts for her cousins, the AC stopped functioning.
'Power supply will be restored in some time Meera', Gayatri soothed her.
But, it didn't. M kept on complaining of the heat, and not having to drink fridge cooled mineral water was driving her crazy.
'I can't wear silks in this weather. Sharada, can you lend me something decent to wear?' she asked.
Sharada choked on her chips and looked up to see M looking harassed. Ani standing behind her, smiled encouragingly.
Clad in Sharada's shorts and tee, Meera looked reassuringly normal. But, soon she was back with her complaint box. This time, however, politeness deserted her,
'I can't stand this heat! Can we go to a mall? Pune has some malls, right?' Meera said.
'We do. But, we stay a long way away from the city. And, Dad has taken the car to office', Ani replied.
'So are we supposed to suffer in this heat!' Meera asked agitatedly.
'You can,' Sharada said trying to keep her tone neutral, 'go to the park and play a few games.'
Meera hesitated before agreeing to join Sharada and her friends. After a riotous game of football, at which Meera was surprisingly very good, the gang of girls headed to an ice cream and juice parlour.
'The litchi soda is magical! Gulp, gulp!' exclaimed Sharada to Meera.
But, Meera was on a different track. 'Sharada, this parlour is right next to your place. How come we got chilled drinks? The refrigerator must have stopped functioning, right?'
Sharada was stumped for a moment, before replying, 'You are right. But, the stores here have generators to supply power, when the regular supply is disrupted.'
'Oh!' nodded Meera in understanding, while Sharada winked at her friends!

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