Ah, Sunshine Girl
On a sticky May morning, I was sitting at the cottage-window looking out at the long stretch of beach, the cluster of rocks, and a sail moving slowly in the horizon. Just then, my cell phone buzzed…It was my granddaughter Kyra from US. I sprang up…she’s like a Sun, when you lift your face to her, it fades away all agonies, leaving you clean, and prepares you to burst into hysterical laughter...
Kyra informed me about her visit to India. It made me extremely happy—I tried to imagine the young lady, but, couldn’t picture her after so many years. But, the patter of her small feet, her screams, and her tremulous smile…were still so fresh in my mind.
Kyra was about eight when the family left India. She never came back, but stayed in touch with me through telephonic conversations. Time flew; she turned fourteen and after nabbing a series of medals in Beach Volley ball tournaments, she was now part of the US Beach Volley Ball team. I heard, they were playing in Chennai beach giving a good fight to the Indian contingent.
Kyra was raised in the coastal town of Puri in Orissa and perhaps that’s how she developed keen interest in the beach games. When I asked her, she giggled and said, “Maybe, the location of my ‘Nani’s cottage held my interest alive…how much I love your cottage, Nani –the silvery view from your westward-window is sooo attractive. Please give me that room when I ‘m there…! By the way, I am coming to meet you by the morning flight day after tomorrow.”
“You are welcome, but, it’s terribly hot and humid here, my little Sunshine! And I do not have air conditioners in the house; old DC connection doesn’t allow me to put up one. Hope you’ll able to bear the extreme heat, my child.”
“Ah, don’t worry, Nani!! ….The dusty and narrow roads, the fiery red lobsters, your Orissa cotton curtains, sunflowers, bougainvilleas in your garden are already casting wonderful images in my mind. Do not worry, I shall drink plenty of coconut water, lemonades---there’s no reason why I wouldn’t enjoy the summer!! Moreover, your ‘anchal ki chaon’ is freeeeeeee… for me! All throughout my childhood, it kept me away from the tartness of the sun. Now, of course, Lakme Sun Screen Expert has taken over your role--- the so-called ‘nanima’s’ protection. She giggled and my mood changed slightly but I laughed.
“Prepare yourself to walk with me to the coast before sunrise to catch those fishing trawlers every morning. Are you listening, Naani? There are still certain images in mind that wipe me flat….Aaah, we’ll buy fresh lobsters and hilsas from the fishermen. You must make exotic fish dishes Nani. …Oh, the sounds of the waves and the ocean winds are beckoning….”
‘Well…yeah. But, Kyra, you’re freaking me, dear. I am old now, my knees ache, so I can’t strain them these days. But I have a maid who does all the cooking and she’ll cook for you...Is that alright? ’ I said tossing my head on the backrest.
‘Uh—of course, that suits me. But Naniiiii, you are still young at heart---you need to let that fear out….’ she proceeded to convince me regardless. I tried to interrupt, but the enormity of her expectations was so overwhelming that I had to stop. I pulled the footrest of the recliner and sank deeper into the cushion, reveling in my moment.
Happiness is so evanescent. I realized, when one is in a happy company, life certainly becomes more vivid, painted in deeper shades….otherwise we are so colorless and severely alone.
Kyra was yawning in frequent small gulps now…..’ so I said bye to her and decided to abandon all my worries. It was a moment to feel all warm and good.
I had to make arrangements, equip the house with a cache of mineral water, fresh and condensed milk, ovaltine..(?) Many images of her toddler days flew past. I thanked God for her Indian sentiments were still there like spores, lurking….
The day eventually arrived. I was out in the garden; my chauffeur had gone to pick her up from the Airport. Suddenly, her sweet voice floated up in the air…”Naaani…” I turned and rushed to her. She was wearing a loose-knit white tank-top with a red inner, a short red kilted skirt and black stockings, her lipstick was a shocking red and her high stiletto heels were making sensuous clicking sounds with her movements ---her 'fashion-sense' elicited confusion,embarrassment and a slight panic in me. Her skin was radiating though and I could see that she had done her make up with great care, —her eye shadow and mascara were sparkling.
Suddenly she pounced on me….
‘Naani, babe, I haven’t seen you in ages! You look the same’. She cooed and gave me a bear hug. A young boy came out of the car and slowly kept cozying up to her…Kyra giggled, when he put his arm around her and nuzzled her neck.
‘Ravi sweetie, you remember I told you about my girlfriend, and this is her---my dearest, bestest, Naani”. I winced.
‘Hey,’ Ravi shook hands with me, swaying slightly on his heels, handed me a bunch of flowers. Kyra and I exchanged looks… I have been levelheaded in the face of stress….but today a strange kind of uneasiness was raising around me. But, it was my responsibility to reach out to my guests, no matter what!
‘It was a last minute decision, Nani. Ravi is my boyfriend and he’s been travelling with our team as the Team Manager. He wanted to see Puri Beach…so, I asked him to come along’, Kyra said, shoving her hand into Ravi’s rear trouser pocket. He’s a sweet fella, Naani…and I absolutely love him’. She chuckled, and I swallowed my disappointment and quickly added, ‘Come on in…’
The air was invigorating inside me and I wanted to wriggle out from all the unpleasantness’….The house had only two bedrooms, and how to accommodate Ravi in the house was a big question mark!
‘Nani sweetie, you free this evening?’
‘Um, I’m not sure. Why?’
‘Well, I thought you, Ravi and I could do something together. Watch a movie; go surfing, swimming something like that. What do you say, princess?’
‘Is Mamma going to be at home today, baby?’I asked her in a rush
‘Why…?’ her voice rose, unnaturally.
I could think of no answer to give her. I wanted to ask my daughter if I could allow the boy in the house, but moved away without saying a word.
But, she got the hint. I saw a wave of annoyance on her face. She was glaring at me, her eyebrows knit together with preconceived disapproval. Ravi, his chin cupped in his hand, was looking at me in surprise.
I thought she had a quality of innocence in her, a likable naïveté, but now I began to ask myself whether it was she or maybe it was me who was so naïve…
I took them to the dining hall and served tea. There were some home baked coconut samosas and cakes.
While sipping our tea, we watched the clouds drop from the sky…with it, the rain. The house took the appearance of a shelter. I was feeling like an unobtrusive mouse sitting in a corner of the room. --- But, I decided to call a truce.
‘So what are your grand plans anyway?’ I asked.
A high wind whined through the trees, Kyra didn’t answer and couldn’t sit still either, she went to the window, rubbing the pane with her nose; she called Ravi.
‘You know, as a kid, I used to lie in this backyard and watch the planes fly overhead…the clean plumes of jet stream used to terrify me. I don’t like this place now’, she whispered to Ravi. ‘I don’t want to stay here.’
Ravi embraced her in his arms and started rubbing his face against her cheek….she flung her arms around his neck and Ravi hugged her to his chest and kissed her, full on the mouth…
I couldn’t ignore my accelerated heartbeats! Just extra adrenaline, I told myself and left the room, I was quiet with the door.
I went to the kitchen, and started preparing the evening meal…After sometime, Kyra came in.; she was almost bare-chested now, naked, but for her pink, frilly bikini. She looked very thin and fragile; her dark body with sharp-edged bones under the skin gave me a fright.
Kyra tapped the kitchen counter with her knuckles and said: ‘Nani, we are going for a swim now. But, we’ll have early dinner tonight and shall be leaving tomorrow by the morning flight.”
I gave her a shove, “What…? Why?”
She was uncertain now, biting her nails, unable to find an answer, And I sensing her confusion, felt a sudden, predatory thrill of triumph. I found Bryan Adams 'Summer of '69' faintly amusing...
****nani ...maternal grandmother
anchal....free end of the sari
chaon mein... under the shadeThis is an entry for 'Lakme Diva Blogger Contest' on http://www.indiblogger.in/ Please visit https://www.facebook.com/ilovelakme for details.