I vividly remember that Sunday. The sun was blazing, though it was just the onset of summer. The park was brimming with happy families. Children frolicking in their bright and colourful summer outfits, parents lazing around the cafe, sipping mugs of chilled beer, and security men keeping vigil on the little monkeys.
It was then, that I first saw her. Like she had stepped right out of a fairy tale. Golden hair curled into little ringlets. Blushing pink lips. A deep dimple forming in her cheeks when she laughed that tinkling laugh of hers. The boys hovered around her like bees. They vied with each other, to crack jokes and make her laugh. One stylishly ran his hand through his hair, another leaned on the wall with a macho casualness, the third kept on his silly non-stop banter. She was patient with all of them. I watched, silently, from a distance, knowing I didn’t stand a chance.
I was already, hopelessly in love with her. But didn’t have the courage to do anything but watch from afar. ‘Oh ! Unrequited love. How often will you pierce my heart ?’ They say beauty is only skin deep. Why then, does nobody want to look beneath, and find the real me ? The warm, caring, loving soul that lies deep within. This is such a materialistic world, with shallow people.
My helplessness and anger made me feel hot, and the sun didn’t do much to help. So I decided to go for a swim in the pond. My stomach was rumbling.
It never fails to amaze me, this stomach…so irreverent to the emotions of the person. No matter what one feels – anger,sorrow, frustration – all of these take a bow before hunger pangs. And happiness, oh, that’s another excuse to gluttony.
The water was cool and refreshing, as I glided through it. I steered clear of the children, for their high-pitched chatter, cries and laughter that earlier seemed so endearing, now only aggravated the ache in my head.
I swam the entire length of the pond, when all of a sudden, I heard a shriek. The group of bees, er, boys, were gathered in a nervous bunch. People were talking in loud whispers.
“How did she fall ? Does she know how to swim ?”
“Mummy, are there dangerous creatures in the pond ?”
“Poppy, where are you ?”. (So, her name was “Poppy”).
“Somebody save her..please !”
Now was my chance. Nobody had noticed me yet. However, I was never one for limelight. I gallantly ducked into the water, and searched for Poppy. Gnawing hunger pangs had already drained the bulk of my energy, and I couldn’t see much, but I didn’t give up.
‘If I could spot her, but once … if I could just get hold of her, and never let her go !’
And then, as if in answer to my prayers, I saw a bit of pink cloth moving gracefully among the weeds. I swam with all my might, and saw Poppy trying to swim upwards towards the light. It was very silent, there, in what seemed to be beneath the rest of the world.
My heart pounded with excitement. I couldn’t help, but admire her to heart’s content. Her golden ringlets waved slowly, her graceful hands and feet moved vigorously. She looked charming … almost delicious. I dared to go very close to her. She caught sight of me. Our eyes met, and instantly locked. She opened her mouth … and let out a noiseless scream.
Then came this final rumble, from the depths of my stomach. I didn’t have a choice.
As I snapped up my lunch that day, I shed tears.
People called it “crocodile tears”.
(Shortlisted as a finalist for a Sulekha EYC contest – Didn’t win it though!)