A is my cousin’s daughter. Right now, a game of throw ball is in progress within the confines of their hall. Rules are simple – hit-catch-hit – ball falls down/you don’t hit – lose point. Throw the ball out of hall, throw the ball wild – lose point. This is a highly debatable rule as we argue a lot as to what is a wild throw and whats just being lazy. She wins some, I lose some. Our scores are tied.
We use special racquets like pitcher’s gloves to catch the ball. A has made the ball herself using paper mache and glue. It’s a size smaller than a regular tennis ball. The best part – it doesn’t hurt if you get hit. And if it gets lost, you just make another one in a different size and colour each time.
Yay for A!
This is the second ball – the first lost behind the TV set in a dark corner. That’s when she fetched the second one and told me the “catch the ball speedily” line. At ‘speedily’, the Grammer Guru in me reared its serpent head – when S, my cousin’s elder daughter rose from the sofa right behind us.
S had been lying there, lost in her own world. Now, she leaves the hall and enters the kitchen where her father and mother are preparing biryani for dinner. “No” – “Wait” and some Mallu words are what reach my ears from inside. Next we see her return, climb back onto the bed and get lost in her own world.
In a while, their mother comes out of the kitchen and sits besides S. A look passes between mother and daughter – a code of sorts. Wait, her mother says – S put her head back on the bed.
Shortly, her father gets the food out. It’s really good biryani. All of us enjoy it, especially S and me.
In about hour we are done with the food and I leave. On my ride back, the wind hits my face, and the conversations come back to me. A shared news about her zoom classes – how she chatted with her friends in secret. How she was excited to visit her granny on X’mas, the friends she missed along with her school at times.
Their mother telling me about S, about her school. About the weird prizes the school gave out – Special Catholic Girl Child Prize (WHAT!). Also how the lockdown had helped S – that she could now sit before the laptop screen for an entire hour. S at that time – how she had stopped rocking. How she had shot out of bed and grabbed a chair just seconds before her father came out of the kitchen with the biryani. How awesome the biryani was. How it had made me smile watching S eat while A complained. Their mother; tired, relieved, happy all at the same time.
I smiled at those images – the last ones of A and S smiling. One through her crooked teeth, the other with her eyes.