Dada is super-excited. Almost gasping for breath, he tries to awaken me from sleep.
Still in a realm of dreams, a universe of gallant knights and princesses in distress, I frown at this unheralded distraction, pull the green-and-pink blanket over my face and blissfully turn to face the other side.
So you don’t want to hear of all the birds Bapi and I saw at the lake this morning ? Dada teases. Desperate in his attempt to shake me out of slumber.
Did I hear that correct ? Birds ? Lake ?
No, that cannot be true.
I pretend to not pay heed.
The lake was teeming with birds from Siberia. Siberian cranes. Flamingos. Northern Shovelers. Dada continues. And furiously rattles off names of birds that I don’t even know of.
Did they really venture to the lake this morning ? For the first time it does strike to me, after all it might not be just a ploy to wake me up.
I lie still though. Now wide awake.
Did Bapi and Dada really walk to the lake leaving me behind at home ? A potpourri of emotions darts past my turbulent mind.
Anguish and anger.
I suddenly realize I am crying.
Dada is impatient now.
I wait for him to leave the room.
I peep out of the blanket. Surreptitiously slip out of bed. And go looking for Bapi.
Did you take Dada to the lake to see the birds ? I quiz him.
Yes, he responds. Quite matter-of-fact.
But you had promised to take me as well. You broke your promise. I protest, displeasure stark in my voice.
You coughed throughout last night. It’s quite chilly in the mornings. You don’t want to make your cold get worse. Do you ?
But the eight year in me was in no mood to listen.
Hurt beyond repair, having been let down by the man she loved the most, I run back to my room. Jump to my bed. Pull the blanket over me. And pretend to be back to sleep.
I hear footsteps. And the bangles. That must be Maa.
I lie still.
Why are you still asleep ? It’s past eight now. Get up.
Don’t talk to me. The wounded me whimpers. Still tucked under my blanket. Trying my best to fight back the tears. You and Bapi don’t love me.
Maa tries to defend. She continues to speak. But the bruised me is floating in a different universe. Amidst the wronged and the deluded.
Maa gives up.
You stubborn girl, I hear her frustrated voice, as she leaves the room.
Time stops still.
The conch blows.
The parakeets fight.
The butterflies flutter.
Footsteps again. That must be Grandma.
Where is my Princess this morning ?
I don’t respond.
Look what I have made for you. Not for Dada. Just for you.
I’ve scolded your Bapi. It was indeed very unfair to have left you back at home.
I peep out of the blanket.
Tears rolling down my cheeks.
She wipes my tears with her aanchol.
Now look at this. I have made Mugshapta for just my Princess this morning.
Come now, the Mugshapta shall get cold if you delay any longer.
As I make the batter for my Mugshapta this chilly winter morning, I smile as my mind goes racing back to that day – a eight-year old who believed that a world of wrongs had been perpetrated on her. And Grandma’s love that put the smile back on her anguished face.
Mugshapta. A yellow moong dal crepe. With a delectable filling of jaggery and grated coconut. Served with a divine kheer.