Aug 9, 2007
Up, Up and Away
Minty did not want to sleep, not one bit, not at all. But Ma insisted that she slept for the customary 2 hours every afternoon. Poor Ma, the thought that for those two hours her very own, wanton of an elder daughter would be asleep leaving her with a few stolen moments of peace were a haven for her. Minty was irrepressible, a joyous concoction of energy, wit, mischief, and playfulness all rolled into one. All of 8 years old she was a voracious reader and often surprised her mother with her vocabulary and not to forget the seemingly endless questions.
“Ma is Grand Mamma 100 years old?”
“Who told you so Minty?”
“Raghu said that since her hair is as white as Cinderella’s Godmother in the fairy story then she has to be a hundred years old at least.”Ma hid the beginnings of a smile on her face as she turned her face away and replied rather nonchalantly “Yes Minty she is 100 years old.”
“If that’s what makes her happy.” Thought Ma.
It was a hot summer afternoon and Minty couldn’t think of a single reason why Ma would confine her within the four walls of the house when the whole world seemed to be beckoning her outside to come and play with them. If not for Ma she could climb the mulberry tree in the garden that lead to the roof of the garage and sit there all afternoon eating mulberries to her heart’s content, till her lips and hands turned purple with smudges of the violet mulberry juice and make faces at the ugly Pomeranian next door. She loved throwing stones at him and provoking him from the roof, getting a thrill out of the fact that he couldn’t get her and would have to be content barking at her while she did a little dance for him . She could have also run around the neighborhood in the dead of the afternoon when all the grown ups would be enjoying their siesta after a meal of fish curry and rice, and happily ring various door bells in succession and run away. What followed after that like a knee jerk reaction was a unanimous shout sounding like “Minnnnntyyyyyyyyyyyyyy”.
The whole neighbourhood knew Minty. She came down each year to visit her grandmother at her huge and ancient turn of the century house during summer holidays. She breathed life and joy into the 70-year-old mansion that had weathered many a storm and stood at the corner of the road living its twilight years. Grandmamma adored her elder grand child but couldn’t quite comprehend where her restlessness and naughty ideas originated from when neither Minty’s mother or Grandmamma herself had been particularly mischievous as kids. Grandmamma remembered rather proudly about the model little girl she had been except for an aberration here and there, she had always listened to her parents, praying twice a day, wearing sarees as soon as she turned 10 years old and playing houses with the china figurines her father gifted her from his trips to London.
Minty’s best friend was the gardener Nathu’s grandson Raghu. Nathu had worked at the Guha household for years together and Grandmamma was particularly fond of him because he knew just the right way to take tender care of her dahlias and managed growing her favorite green roses every winter. Nathu and Grandmamma shared a history too as they had been playmates when they were children. Grandmamma had been forbidden to play with boys as a child when one day she and Nathu were seen reenacting a wedding scene whilst going round and round an imaginary sacred fire. Grandmamma’s mother had freaked seeing that comical scene and thinking how her somber and solemn husband who had been bestowed with a particularly serious disposition, would react to his only daughter playing with a servant boy. From that day onwards-poor Grandmamma saw Nathu every evening only from her veranda roaming around in the garden all alone, cutting a sorry figure of a little boy missing his playmate while Grandmamma looked longingly at the garden and then at Nathu.
Strangely Minty and Nathu’s grandson Minty forged a friendship when Nathu got Raghu along with him to the house to help him with the chores in the garden. Raghu challenged her to climb the tallest tree in the garden and Minty never said no to such challenges that questioned her ability to outdo boys in any field.
“Of course I can climb that tree. I’ll climb it and show you, I’ll go up, up and away.”
“No you can’t. Girls can’t climb trees. Girls are sissies.”
“Just you wait and see. I’ll go up, up and awayyyyyyyyy.”
Minty followed by Raghu close to her heels frisked along the cobble stoned path and made her way to the jackfruit tree that stood in the middle of the garden towering over all the other trees. She surprised him and the whole household by climbing the highest branch in a matter of minutes and before long there was utter chaos as one of the servants complained to Grandmamma who rushed out to the garden to be greeted by the horrifying sight of Minty who had now been joined by Raghu entertaining the entire army of servants by their acrobatics of jumping from one branch to the other.
“See Grandmamma I am going up, up and away.” Minty shouted as she swung from one branch to another.
“Minty and Raghu come down right now at this very moment.”
Grandmamma was appalled by the public spectacle her grand daughter had made of herself.
“But Grandmamma we are having ever so much fun. I don’t wanna come down and nor does Raghu.” Minty looked at Raghu and he nodded in approval.
“Minty please come. God will punish you. Pious little girls do not climb jackfruit trees.” Wailed an exasperated Grandmamma hoping to instill the fear of God in Minty.
“ I am not scared of God. Besides I am sure he’d have fun too climbing this tree with me.”
“Minty come down right now or else Ma won’t let you play for the next 5 days.”
Now that was a possible threat and Minty couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to play for 5 whole days. Her little soul shuddered.
“Okie I’ll come down but only on the condition that you’ll make my favorite rice pudding with cashews and raisins and that you won’t tell Ma a word of this. “
“Yes I shall make the pudding and won’t tell your Ma either.” said a harassed Grandmamma. Minty and Raghu finally made their way down and received a hero’s welcome with shouts and claps as they were united with mother earth . Grandmamma took her grubby little grand child indoors and shooed the servants away asking them to get back to their work. Raghu was sent off home only to receive a thrashing from his nagging mother who had been at her wits end wondering where her son had vanished. Later that night after dinner content in her little world, Minty sat on the steps of the veranda with her bowl of rice pudding trying to find the raisins and cashews. She thought heard she something and she looked up at the sky just in time to see a shooting star zoom across. She smiled and softly whispered into the night “Up up and away.”