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“Wake up Sneha,” said Raj to her daughter. “I forgot to set an alarm and your school starts in half an hour. Get ready or you’ll be late” she said taking the quilt off her daughter. Sneha got up, happily skipped showering and put her school dress on. “Mom, where are my shoes?” asked Sneha shouting on top of her voice. Raj got annoyed and answered, “On my head of course. Can’t you see I am working, find them yourself. I can’t do everything, I am not a machine.” Raj was running around the house making sure that her daughter got to school on time. The morning chores had become an involuntary reflex for her.
Sneha hurriedly put on her shoes on and came running to the kitchen looking for breakfast. “You have no time for breakfast,” said Raj while taking out the left-over roti and putting jam on it. “Eat this on your way to the school,” said Raj rolling it and handing it to Sneha. Sneha took a bite and ran out with her bag.
It was a sunny day and the school was ten minutes’ walk away from home. Sneha walked as fast as she could while eating. The school bell would ring in exactly ten minutes, and she didn’t want to be late. Somehow Sneha managed to reach and it took her some time to catch her breath after reaching school. The day went like any other day. Sharma Sir gave a lot of homework, Vaijanti Ma’am wore a new gaudy sari, the usual stuff.
As soon as the final bell rang, all the students ran out of school. Sneha while walking back home had a little hop in her walk. She was humming her favorite song when she saw Shastri Ji. Shastri Ji was famous in the town for his walk. He had a peculiar way of walking. His waist swayed from one side to the other amusing everyone who saw him. Sneha would always meet Shastri Ji on her way home.
Sneha quickly ran behind him and started imitating his famous walk. She would do that all the way to her house. People would watch her and laugh but never point fingers to disrupt the amazing scene. Shastri Ji always knew Sneha was behind him, but he would smile and keep walking. As the gate to Sneha’s house came closer, he would turn and say, “I can see you, child.” He would give out a loud laugh and keep walking. The carefree Sneha would feel so happy for some reason and repeat that every day.
This would be a ritual every day. Sometimes, Shastri Ji would stop and give chocolates to Sneha. There were days when he would come and ask for Sneha if she missed a day of this mischievous ritual. It seemed as if it made Shastri Ji happy more than it did Sneha.
As time passed, this phenomenon stopped. Sneha grew up and now went to college. She was no more a carefree creature who would imitate Shastri Ji and had now grown shy. She had become more conscious and hardly talked to anyone. The norms didn’t allow her to be the carefree girl who didn't have to feel guilty about her mischiefs.
One day Shastri Ji came home and asked for Sneha. She shyly came out and sat down. “Oh, it’s been so long since I have seen you follow me home,” said Shastri Ji. Everyone started laughing. Sneha got flustered. She thought of it as an ideal opportunity to apologize “Sorry Shastri Ji, it was very rude of me for behaving that ways. I shouldn’t have…” and before she could complete Shastri Ji interrupted her and said, “Who told you that I minded that?”
There was pin drop silence, no one spoke a word. Shastri Ji continued, “I never felt insulted as you did all that out of the innocence of your heart. You didn’t want to hurt me.” Sneha looked towards Shastri Ji and smiled. “One needs to be comfortable with oneself. Keep the kid inside you alive, and you will never look for offense in small mischief of a child. Children don’t have agendas like some grownups. It rather made me feel like a child again. So, I should be thanking you.” added Shastri Ji. The room filled with laughter again.
© 2019 Vishakha