In the mind of a child

I was about eight years old and having the best vacation of my young life. We, folks and I, were in the hills of Pahalgam, Kashmir. Papa was there on work though, and mum being an army officer's wife was also on duty. I, on the other hand, was totally free and having a time of my life. As if the green hills and the distant snow-peaked mountains, the sounds and current of the river Lidder, the tall and dense forests of the Chinars were not enough, we were also staying in luxury tents.

So as I said, parents were busy with their respective duties, I usually was left alone to wander on my free will with a few directions and rules. One such idle sunny morning, I decided to collect the fragile mauve flowers of the great Chinar trees that surrounded our tent. I went on a trail imagining myself to be Red-riding Hood for a while until the image of big bad wolf flashed in front of me and the idea ceased to seem enchanting. After spending almost the entire morning gathering flowers, I collected them all in my frock and got them back to the tent. Now, I had to find something to do with them.

Sitting on the make-shift bed covered with pure white bed sheet, I laid down each flower carefully on the bed  and admired them. I was sure parents would be super happy to see my handy work. In the excitement, I decided to decorate our little tent. I ran about putting flowers on each table. Somewhere in the enthusiasm, I knocked a jug of water that was sitting on the dressing table. It wet the white tablecloth and ruined some of my flowers. I sighed. I did not want parents to see the mess and had to do something before them came back.

As I removed the contents of the dressing table to take the tablecloth off, I noticed a bright purple stain on the pure white cloth. I freaked. For a moment, I stood there staring at the purple stain willing it to disappear. It did not. I forgot all about my pretty flowers and decoration. Now, I had a single mission and that was to clean the stain off the tablecloth before the folks saw it. For the life of me, I could not understand how those fragile mauve flowers could have left such a bright stain! But I had no time to dwell into such matters. Mummy was, and is till date, very gentle and forgiving. Papa, on the other hand, would be most definitely classified under the category of strict fathers. Especially when it came to messing with other people's stuff. Now this tablecloth happened to be other people's stuff. We were staying in the army's tent, weren't we? Someone would see the stain and report it to who so ever cared about these things and that guy would ask papa to explain and then papa would come home and ask me! I was fucked, only I did not know the word back then.

I stood on my toes to reach the wash basin's tap and rubbed the bathing soap on the stain with all my might. But no, the stain would not go away. I tried and tried and tried again. After what seemed like hours, could have been ten minutes, I decided to confide in our orderly, as given the advantage of age, he was sure to know a way out. He helped me scrub some more and then gave up with a sigh and asked me to talk to mum.

How I passed time till noon is something that I have not understood till date. Worried about the wrath that was ready to befall me, I sat outside our tent gazing downhill at the other side of the road where my parents sat doing stuff in one of those green tents.

At last mum came. Thankfully alone. And I told her. Do you know what she said?

“Do not worry, girl. I too mistakingly got my lipstick on the tablecloth this morning. The laundry guy will take care of it. “

I then looked at my mum's face. Her lips were painted in a light shade of purple.

—–

The fear that had engulfed me for a few hours that day was not easily forgotten. However, I was reminded of it again this morning when I broke a glass on the breakfast table. The glass was a property of the apartments where we are staying right now and I would, no doubt, be asked to pay for it. But the only feeling that enters my adult mind now is anger at being careless. And people think what worries would a child have!
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