“Ma, Wow! What is this arrangement all about?”Misry asked excitedly.

“Your Daddy’s friends are coming over sweet heart.” Madhavi replied.

“Do they have children?” Misry asked.

“Misry! Didn’t I tell you not to put up such questions sweet heart? It is so embarrassing.” Madhavi reminded.

“But Ma. You told me not to ask any Uncle and Aunty. I am asking you.” She was correct.

“Sweetie, they do have children almost your age but they are not bringing over their families. So maybe next time you can meet their children.” Madhavi answered.

“Too bad Ma. All my friends have one or two siblings to play with, and me? I have none. Even the visitors don’t bring over their children. So mean.”

“Misry you will be very disappointed when you have one.” Madhavi said.

“Disappointed? Why?” Misry asked innocently.

“Because you will have to share everything with your sibling. Even me and Daddy.” Madhavi replied.

Misry thought for a moment then replied, “I don’t mind as long as it is a Talking Doll like Honey’s. I know she will listen to me and play with me. Will you get me one, Ma?”

“You started again. Did I not tell you not to say such things? We will think over. But you got to behave first. Promise me.” Madhavi added.

“I swear Ma, I will listen to you and behave myself.” Misry promised.

“Hmmm. I will see to that.” Madhavi said.

***

Later in the evening.

The arrival of the guests was the call for the party. Bottles opened, glasses filled, ice added and CHEERS! The boys got busy with their man to man talk and Madhavi kept the supply of snacks running. Later she too joined them. No, not for drink but conversation. Their topic kept changing from one subject to another and finally rested on music. Dinner was delayed and the mehfil was set for some gana bajana.

It was an era when the TV was not part of life. People entertained by watching movies in the theater or at casual drink parties at home and clubs. And if it was a Bengali home then the causal drink party would eventually give way to singing sessions where even the non singers would sing in chorus.  It would start with Rabindra Sangeet followed by Hemanta and Manna Dey songs mostly.

Misry always loved these sessions. Since her childhood she had watched her family spend time together in the evening singing their favorite songs. Now that she was a little grown up she too joined them. Madhavi was a great singer and so was Pallavi . Daddy had always been a bad singer but that did not stop him from joining them.

So that evening too, they had a singing session with the two gentlemen. Luckily one of them was a professional singer with All India Radio and knew to play harmonium while the other was a Tabla maestro. So this time Misry had the opportunity to croon along with the music.  It was a fantastic evening and finally ended at the dinner table.

Madhavi’s lavish culinary skills and hospitability had won the gentlemen’s heart. They wanted to gift something to Madhavi and Misry. They were very apologetic for not bringing anything along for the two lovely girls.

In the end it was decided they will go to the market and buy something for Madhavi and Misry. Although it was pretty late at night yet they insisted on going. Anurag had no option but to listen to them. Since dinner was over, Madhavi too decided to join them.

They reached the market that was twenty kilometers from the camp in Anurag’s service jeep. They got off on the main road near the market place while the driver drove off the jeep to the parking.

Misry walked with Anurag while Madhavi walked with the Singer. The other guest quietly followed them behind. Since it was already late most of the shops were already closed or were closing down for the day. Few road side hawkers were still looking for business.

They finally zeroed down to one shop that sold women garment and accessories. The Singer asked Madhavi to make her selection while he went off to pick something for his wife. Anurag had to buy some cigarettes so he excused himself. The other guest was not every keen on purchasing garment. So he moved out to another shop nearby.

With all the adults busy Misry was left to fend on her own. She had watched the other guest leave the shop. To keep an eye on that guest she stepped out of the shop. She watched the guest purchasing something from the hawker at a little distance. He was standing with his back towards her. Then Misry looked for Anurag. She found him purchasing cigarette in the corner pan shop.  A red balloon tied to the pole caught her attention and she watched it sway in the wind.

A little later, she looked inside the store where Madahvi and the Singer were making a purchase. She didn’t find them there. She asked the store sales man and he showed her the rear exit gate through which they had left just a second before. MIsry peeped out of the rear gate but the lane was dark and creepy. So she didn’t take a chance and came back to where she stood earlier, outside the shop.

She looked for her Daddy but he too was not there anymore. She turned her attention to the other guest. He was still there making his purchase. Misry ran up to him and called him. When the man turned to face her she was surprised to find some other man and not her guest uncle.

It took her some moments to realize that she was alone and lost. Nervousness gripped her and she wanted to weep. But then she didn’t lose her sanity. She kept her cool. She knew at this hour of the night asking for help would invite bad people and she had heard enough of them from her mother. She didn’t want to be captivated by them.

She threw off the cloud of uncertainty and made a game plan. As she was a B.S.F child, uniform was something she was pretty familiar with and she would not hesitate to ask help from uniform clad people which at this moment would be easy to find on the main road. She knew the way out of the market as she had been here many times before with her Daddy. She figured out all she had to do was to get hold of a traffic policeman and she will be safe.

Without any fear she retraced her path out of the market towards the main road. She knew if she walked alone she will invite trouble so she followed a couple to the main road so that people will think she was with them.

Once on the main road, she saw their jeep parked across the road. Since the road was busy, she knew she could not cross it on her own. She had to ask for help. But whom to ask? There was no traffic police in the vicinity. Standing alone by the side of the road at this hour of the night was not good for children and she knew that.

Finding her alone a cycle rickshaw driver asked her what the matter was. Though she had seen her class mates come to school in cycle rickshaw yet Misry eyed him suspiciously. But the man looked anything but bad and she felt she could trust him. She showed him the Jeep and asked him to help her cross the road. The poor man didn’t ask any question and got ready to help her.

***

When Madhavi found that her daughter was not with Anurag, as she had assumed, she started weeping. Handful of people and few shops were still open on the four road crossing in the marketplace. Apart from that most of the shops were closed and the lanes deserted. Madhavi’s heart was praying to the almighty every second for her daughter’s safety. She didn’t know what to do.

When Anurag didn’t find Misry in the few shops he started thinking from the child’s perspective. He had a hunch that Misry would not wait here for them if she were lost. She would definitely go towards the main road looking for uniform clad people whom she was more familiar with. He asked few hawkers and they confirmed watching a little girl going towards the main road few minutes back. So he left Madhavi and others in the market to continue their search while he ran towards the main road.

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Once on the main road he saw his jeep parked across the main road. He was sure Misry might have seen it too and will go there. He was waiting to cross the road when Misry unknowingly bumped into him.

“Oh Daddy!”Misry hugged him.

Anurag thought the poor man had helped his daughter come all the way out of the market so he rewarded him with a hundred rupee note and thanked him from the core of his heart. Then he picked up Misry on his lap and hugged her back.

A little later, Madhavi too joined them with the two guests. She was weeping bitterly. And when she found Misry in Anurag’s lap she rushed to the child.

She could not hide her agony and started scolding Misry instead. MIsry didn’t utter a word and hugged her mother.

Anurag taught her that in situation like this she should keep standing where she was left so that when people come back to find her she is easily traceable.

Later when Misry told her story everybody was amazed to see the kind of intelligence the young girl had showed. Madhavi thanked her stars for taking care of their little angel. And Anurag thought how blindly he had trusted his hunch.

When things finally lightened up they all said, “When will you GROW UP MESSY!”

*****

Glossary* mehfil – s a gathering or evening of courtly entertainment of music or poetry

gana bajana- to play or sing songs

Rabindra Sangeet – songs of Rabindranath Tagore

Tabla – Indian musical instrument

26 stories in 26 days. I am attempting very very short stories series with GROW UP MESSY – The sweet sour story of a 5 year old girl. Follow my blog for the next story of Messy.

You can read the other post in the series here.

 

 

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