Nasreen Gopal nibbled at the edge of her pen with a thoughtful expression on her face and eyes twinkling with a sort of un-placeable excitement. She was, in what she called, a ‘writer’s itch’, where she just HAD to write and keep on writing as if the mere thought of stopping would stifle her!
She laughed at the recollection of the incident that had been narrated. As flashes filled her mind, she began to pen down furiously, the snatches of words that could best describe the events of the preceding evening, and what I deemed was the best way to tell yet another of Illundavoor’s tales…
Little Dimple did not like Motu Uncle’s language! Such a different language from her Hindi, she bitterly thought. It wrung her soul and she tried many actions to convey to him that she was thirsty! And what was he doing? Thinking she was in need of a new toy, or a ride in the dizzying Giant wheel, giving her exactly what she had not asked for!
Little Dimple had not anticipated that her 7-year old self would be sent in the sweltering heat to the neighbouring village fair. As a matter of fact, she had not imagined that the 2-monthlong Dakshin* trip, (now thankfully coming to a close) that her parents had planned would be so boring!
All they had done so far was visit houses after houses of scary old people, with wrinkled faces and toothless smiles, forcing her to kiss their sagging cheeks. Not to forget getting her little brother Anup’s hair shaved off in some “Tripathi” where big muscled men had tonsured heads, appearing like thugs from a Hindi film, and crowds waited in cages to see a god for less than a second!
Little Dimple had been so bored when Anup was having his mid-noon nap, that when her mother suggested that she go with Pazhani uncle to the neighbouring village fair, she had agreed almost immediately, considering she had nothing better to do.
Dimple did not mind Pazhani, alias “Motu” uncle. He let her poke his fat arm with her finger and see it cave in. He also promised her (“Chinnamma”) ** that he’d let her pour water in the dent to see if it will stay. Much as she tailed along with him throughout the day, Dimple was slightly jealous of Pazhani when he told her that there was a city named after him! So she set out for the fair with thoughts of ice golas and gray green bangles.
And what did she get in return?! A rickety car journey followed by a heap of things she never asked for! Why did NOT Motu uncle speak Hindi? She tried once more at telling him she was thirsty. Miraculously, this time, he seemed to have understood and set off, asking her to wait, into the neighbouring water stall to fetch a bottle.
Meanwhile, Ramu Mama, Janaki Mami and Mr.Gopal, after having got an amazing darisanam*** of the Ramar-Sita-Lakshmanar idol, were standing nearby, talking about the fair’s proceedings with fellow villager Narayanan.
“Adhu Illai-da Narayana(It’s not like that, Narayana),” Mami was saying, “Last time the tiruvizha(fair) had more bhakti than show. This time round, calling all these actor-actresses to inaugurate the temple dances made it too commercial, I say! Namma Ramar tiruvizhakku actor Rangarajan edhukku-da?(Why do we need actor Rangarajan to inaugurate our Rama temple fair?)”
“I agree one hundred percent with you, Mami! Next time my family’s going to be in charge… and I’ll make sure we don’t do such things. Amaam… Mr.Gopal…Nasreen enga?(So, Mr.Gopal….Where’s Nasreen?)”
“She’s gone to cover an assignment in Chennai,” Mr.Gopal replied, “She was feeling very depressed to have missed the tiruvizha! You see, she always loves all this festivity.”
Thus having concluded, and parting ways with Narayanan, Mama, Mami and Mr.Gopal beat the retreat. On their way back, whom should they meet, but a crying little Dimple, sitting on ‘Mookkan’ Thatha’s(Big-nosed Grandpa) thinnai(resting stone bench, part of the porch in South Indian homes)!
Having been made to wait an annoying ten minutes, pushed and pulled around by all and sundry till she was lost and frightened in the crowd, Little Dimple had somehow squeezed her way out into the open, and chosen that thinnai to seat her distraught self. Oh… where WAS Motu Uncle?!
Motu uncle had come back with an icy bottle of ‘colour’, only to find Dimple missing. “Chinnamma….,” he had screamed into the crowd, but in vain. Scared and angry with himself to have wasted five whole minutes smoking an OC cigarette from the shopkeeper, he rushed off to the nearby telephone booth-diagonally opposite ‘Mookkan’ Thatha’s house!
Here, Mami’s heart was moved at the plight of the crying child. Mama and Mr.Gopal scanned the crowds to find some search party but found none. “Times are bad and kidnappers are aplenty. Indha kozhandaiya inga vidarathu enakku seriya padalai”(I don’t think it is wise to leave the child here)- Mami’s words sealed their minds and little Dimple entered the portals of ‘Tejas’- 34 Ramar Koil Street.
Mr.Gopal informed pookkari(florist) Govindamma at the temple step about the child and asked her to direct any search party to 34 Ramar Koil Street.
Enter Dimple into ‘Tejas’, and the weeping child subdued on escaping the heat of the noon. The cheery faces of Mama, Mami and Mr.Gopal also calmed her down.
“Konde, un per ennada?”(What is your name, child?) Mama enquired, smiling and pinching Dimple’s red fat chubby cheeks.
Now, Dimple had a habit of throwing anything that was at hand if someone pinched her cheeks. Mami’s precious spare glasses became her object-of-smash this time and her anger only melted at the sight and sound of the fragile glass breaking into smithereens.
“Siva Sivaa… Enna da? Yaen ipdi ellathayum pottu odaikkaraai?(Lord Siva! What is this? Why are you breaking everything?) What is your name?” Mami asked, a mild irritation at the brutish behavior, colouring her tone.
Dimple giggled, revealing a missing front tooth and figuring out that they were asking for her name (Hadn’t scores of these weird-language people ask her the same question? And hadn’t she been instructed to say “Dimple” as an answer? Oh… how can she forget the annoying times?)
“Dimple,” she answered as practiced.
“What a cute name for a cute girl…,” remarked Mr.Gopal and pinch pinch pinch he went on her ruddy cheeks!
Dimple was enraged! How dare these old people insult her and pinch her!? Letting out a wild scream, she ran around the house in circles, madly flinging her arms and pushing every object at sight.
Now Mama, Mami and Mr.Gopal could initially not comprehend the child’s act of blitzkrieg attacks! But once reality sunk, they scooted off their old bones and started chasing the girl.
Runs Dimple into the kitchen and plop, the Chinese bowl breaks.
“Ayyoda! Idhenna kodumai,(Oh! What kind of a torture is this?)” Mami screams between gasps of breath.
Runs Dimple into the Pooja room and clang, drops the Feng Shui bell.
“Dimple! Don’t run! Dear kid… stop…stop… stop… amma… I’m not able to run,” pant-screamed Mama.
Jumps Dimple though the common window and into 35, Ramar Koil Street.
“Aiyayyo! (Oh my god!)Now it’ s my turn I guess!” screeches Mr.Gopal, fleeing out of ‘Tejas’ and into his own ‘home sweet…err…collapsing home’.
And there stands Dimple, near a life size Geisha doll that Nasreen had bought from her official trip to China- all stunned and awed.
She gave an angelic smile, turned around and looked at Mr.Gopal, saying, “Bahut Sundar hain!(Very pretty!)”
“Huh? Mmm... Whatever you say,” Mr.Gopal hastily jabbered, grinning foolishly, but relieved that the pesky kid was somehow not in her maniacal mode.
By then Mama and Mami had panted their respectful selves inside, in a state of frayed nerves and disarrayed appearance.
Dimple visually weighed the three of them with interest and finding in her mental picture, the perfect treble to play “Queen! Queen!” game, proceeded towards the oonjal(swing) and throned herself.
“Ab Suno! Tum- Soldier,” she ordered at Mr.Gopal.
“Tum Minister,” she appointed Mama.
“Aur tum-meri dost aur sevak,” she uttered, pointing at Mami.
“Main, Queen,” she declared with a beatific dimpled smile.
Mr.Gopal, having a miniscule knowledge of the national language, proceeded to explain to Mama and Mami that the devil incarnate has chosen their esteemed selves as her fellow playmates in the game where she plays the Queen.
Finding this game a hopefully less destructive one than insanely running about the house, the three meekly obeyed Her Majesty, the Queen on the Swing!
“Soldier!” she clapped,” Mujhe bhook lagi hain. Khana lao!” She pointed at her tummy. Her lips quivered slightly and her eyes welled up with tears of hunger, but gulping them down bravely, she regained composure.
The soldier instantly marched to the kitchen and brought every edible item possible to shut Her Majesty’s mouth.
After an extensive meal of 3 bananas ( “Kela mujhe bahut pasand hain!”), a pack of Marie biscuits, lime juice(“aaah! Nimbu pani?!”), chips and murukku(“Theeka jalebi?!”), Her Majesty Dimple, ordered the Minister and friend to provide her some entertainment.
“Mujhe bore ho raha hain. Naacho! Gao…,” she screamed herself hoarse. Rejecting Mr.Gopal’s desperate attempts to switch on the TV, she started crying and asking them to stage a cultural extravaganza in her honour.
Where any other power fails, a kid’s pleading and lung power succeeds. Mama and Mr.Gopal, who had never danced in their life, and never, even in their wildest moments, ever imagined to see themselves dance, performed a little jig to Mami’s rendition of “Kurai ondrum illai maraimoorthy kanna”(I have no worries, Krishna)-an ironic song to be sung when troubled by the imp of a girl.
Dimple, on the other hand, was clapping her hands in glee and swaying in the swing with the most delighted expression on her face.
“Filmi gaana gao.. Film.. F-I-L-M,” she yelled.
Knowing better to yield to her wishes than suffer the worst, Mami broke into “Unnai Ondru Ketpen”(Let me ask you something, what do I sing?) from Parakkum Paravai.
What more could have happened, one can only imagine. For one- the capabilities and ideas of kids range from the whacky and bizarre to downright innocent and wonderful. What dimple might have asked them to do might have been anything from rocking her to sleep with a story of marching on the road in a royal procession.
Thankfully for them, the infinite possibilities of torture disappeared in a whiff when Motu Uncle turned up with pookkaari Govindamma at the door. After profusely thanking the battered three residents of 34 & 35 Ramar Koil Street, Motu Uncle whisked Little Dimple away.
Just before Dimple left, she hugged and kissed Mama, Mami and Mr.Gopal on both their cheeks and with a “Nalla aadareenga! Enakku onga ellarayum rumba pidikkum! Bye bye!”(You dance really well. I really like you all.) she giggled and left!