I went to my ophthalmologist yesterday. No its not about my double vision, just a boring corneal infection. As I was standing in the line to get my invoice done, I saw out of the corner of my eye a flash of red skirt and a curly lock whizz past my knee.
As I looked down, a pair of huge impish brown eyes was peeping into my side bag with frank curiosity. It was a girl no older than five years of age. I asked in my scariest voice "do you know what I keep inside my purse?"
Well, that sort of stumped me. I was thinking more in the lines of a red eyed monster. But I admit, giraffe is a fair guess. This was an extrovert kid, not one to hide behind her mother's Saree when a stranger smiles at her. Better and better.
"I am going to be five years in August. Grandpa says I can have a bike then but only if I ride it inside my building." She declared. "Really? What colour bike?"
"Red." Her pride showed in her voice.
Suddenly changing the subject she drew closer conspiratorially. "Can you move this thing? I can."
The thing is a divider with an elastic band separating the queues in front of the help desk like the ones they have at airport checking in counters. "Yeah. With one hand. With three fingers actually." Well, I know I'm not allowed to touch the divider, but come on I can boast that I can, right? I mean its just a kid, and she started the boasting match first.
The girl was overcome by a fit of giggles, I'm guessing at the very idea of me trying to budge the divider (fixed to the ground), with three fingers. A competition soon ensued. The moment she realized that the thing is nailed to the ground, a sly look came in her eyes. "I'm bored with this game. Can you go round and round like this?"
To demonstrate, she moved out of the line into a relatively open space and started going round in circles and dropped on all fours to the ground, obviously giddy, but giggling nevertheless.
See, now that's not fair. I mean of course I can go "round and round" but it kind of sucks that I'm 28 and I cant do it without an excuse in the middle of a hospital lounge. Unless of course I pass it off as an attack of anxiety at having to wait in the serpentine queue for over 30 minutes. But I doubt if I'd have takers.
So this brat scored one on me there. Smug as hell, she stuck out her tongue at me and decided "you don't know anything." What choice do I have here? I could blow my neighborhood's biggest spit bubble and I can climb a six foot wall in a skirt, I could also take on boys twice my size and beat them to a pulp before I was even 10 years old. Sadly, achievements I can't demonstrate at the hospital. Not if I want a prolonged stay at their mental ward, anyway.
So then this thought hit me. I do miss my wild weird days of childhood. Of climbing on to a low hanging branch over the local pond and jumping with a mighty splash during summer days. Stealing from jars of pickle set out to ripen in the sun on an elderly neighbour's terrace, writing secret letters to the "bikram" (of bikram and betal fables) who incidentally lived under my bed and raided our fridge during the night (that's my story and I'm sticking to it).
Or just meaningless "going round and round" with neighbourhood kids when I was old enough to be let out of sight for hours on end.
As I waved goodbye to the kid in the red skirt, I yelled "so whats your name?"
"Tina Ravina Singh. whats yours?" "giraffe-girl" I said. She knew it was a joke but asked me seriously, "Giraffe-girl what?" "Giraffe-girl Bhowmik". "Oh! but that doesn't go well with giraffe-girl. you should be Singh."
"But then I'll have to sing all the time. All Singhs can sing."
How long this senseless conversation would have gone on I don't know. But her mother emerged with the requisite paperwork from the front end of the queue and asked her to say "bye-bye to her new friend" so they can get her dental check-up done.
She was still holding two tiny forefingers on the side of her heard (imitating a giraffe, I'm guessing) and sticking out her tongue at me when she was dragged away.
"I don't have ALL day you know," the annoyed receptionist barked at me. Back to business.